LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The "test-to-stay" program approved by the Jefferson County Board of Education last week has begun. 

The new program, which took effect Monday, gives Jefferson County Public Schools students and staff the option to skip a mandatory quarantine after coming in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. The hope is to reduce the number of students forced to quarantine.

The "test-to-stay" program is voluntary. The program’s goals, according to the district, include minimizing absences related to COVID-19 quarantines and lessening the burden of quarantines on students, families and staff.

It allows students and staff who have been exposed to the virus, but are not feeling sick to undergo daily COVID-19 testing rather than the 7-10 days in quarantine currently required after such exposures.

"Which is a very big deal, particularly since we had all last year with a disruption to learning." JCPS Health Services Manager Dr. Eva Stone said. "All the talk about a return to learning and making up for learning loss, one of those most important things we can do is make sure they're at school to receive in-person learning."

Participants in the JCPS "test-to-stay" program must test negative for COVID-19 before they attend school, participate in extracurricular activities or ride school buses following close contacts with anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

COVID-19 tests will be provided free at district middle schools, high schools and other locations, Sundays through Thursdays. There are 56 locations across the district, plus several mobile units. Participants can obtain tests through medical providers at their own expense, but the results must be provided to JCPS. In-home testing is not allowed.

The daily testing would continue for as long as the person would have been in quarantine.

"If a family goes to one of those sites, then the school will have access to those test results," Stone said. "They'll know, when the student comes in in the morning, of the negative test. Of course, if the test is positive, then the student shouldn't come back to school."

A similar "test-to-play" program takes effect Nov. 1. It will require students who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing at their schools and test negative for COVID-19 before they can play. If students miss regular testing dates at their schools, they can get tested at one of the district's other testing locations after school.

For more information on "test-to-stay," or to sign the JCPS consent form, click here.

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