Shawnee Mission will use new COVID-19 testing protocol starting in January — here’s how it will work

Starting Jan. 3, the district will use the "Test to Stay" protocol recently endorsed by the CDC as an effective means for keeping students in school learning and avoiding at-home quarantines. Students who have been exposed to a positive case can get tested for seven consecutive days after the exposure and remain in school as long as they test negative. File photo.

Students in the Shawnee Mission School District go on winter break starting Wednesday, Dec. 22.

When they return to class for the winter semester on Wednesday, Jan. 5, the district will have in place a new protocol for testing students for COVID-19.

It’s called “Test to Stay,” and the CDC last week endorsed the protocol as an effective means of avoiding at-home quarantines and keeping students learning in school.

Other Johnson County districts, including Blue Valley and USD 232 in De Soto, have been using “Test to Stay” already, and the state is offering funds to help cover the added time and resources it takes for districts to test more under the protocol.

SMSD’s full COVID-19 mitigation plan for the winter semester can be found here.

How will “Test to Stay” impact students and families?

How ‘Test to Stay’ Works

If a student is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or is asymptomatic but been exposed to a known positive case, they can be tested daily for seven consecutive days (not counting Saturdays).

As long as they test negative, they can remain in school and not have to quarantine at home.

While they are in the seven-day “Test to Stay” protocol window, students must wear masks at all times at school, except while eating or drinking, and also during athletics and other extracurricular activities. (Starting, next semester, masking will be optional for middle and high schoolers in SMSD.)

During the seven-day “Test to Stay” period, students and staff must also eat lunch at least six feet away from other people.

If a student tests positive for COVID-19 at any point, they will be excluded at home from in-person learning for 10 days or until they can show a negative result from a PCR test.

Other details

Parental consent is required before the first test. Students can test without parents during subsequent tests.

All students being tested through “Test to Stay” will be tested at the district’s central testing site at the Broadmoor Center, the district’s early childhood learning center, at 6701 W 83rd Street in Overland Park.

The Broadmoor Center testing site will be open:

  • Monday-Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
  • Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Students must receive a negative result from a PCR test prior to returning to school the following day. If a test result is not received in time — for example, if there is an increase in testing — then the student must stay home that day.

If a student or their family is not able to get them to a testing site, the district “may have an alternative plan for testing at school as capacity allows,” according to the district’s winter semester mitigation plan.

In addition, the district still recommends all eligible students — which at this point, are all students except for some pre-K students — get the COVID-19 vaccine.

SMSD’s winter mitigation plan says “vaccination clinics will be facilitated by SMSD in conjunction with community partners for staff, students, and community” during the winter semester.

Latest data

The district’s online COVID-19 dashboard shows that for the most recent week of data reported on Friday, Dec. 10, there were 107 student exclusions, including both positive and presumed positive cases.

That was a decrease from the week before when there were 160 student exclusions, a single-week high for the year.

Of the 107 exclusions reported for the week ending Dec. 10, 61 were in elementary schools, 38 in high schools and 8 in middle schools.