Fairfax County received approval from the state of Virginia to host a pilot program that lets students test out of quarantine requirements if they are exposed to COVID-19.
The final days of winter break bring change for Janine Goodchild's high school daughter and for herself as a county teacher. She’s had to navigate a school year that saw students and even entire classes placed in quarantine after close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case are identified.
“Four out of the five classes have quarantined, but overall I think we've had relatively low incidents at my school,” Goodchild said.
Her class and daughter may not have had to quarantine, but not all Fairfax parents can say the same.
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“We were notified that our son was identified as a close contact and to please pick him up from school. This was like on a Monday afternoon,” mother Lilit Yoo said.
She remembers the process as a mess, and said she couldn't get a straight answer on when her child could go back.
Now, Fairfax County Public Schools will be one of the first school systems in Virginia to roll out a new test-to-stay program, which allows close contacts to immediately take a COVID-19 test. If it's negative, the student can stay in school and skip quarantine.
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With omicron cases raging through the community, Goodchild isn't convinced that this is the right time.
“Honestly at this point, with the omicron variant, I don't think it makes a lot of sense,” she said.
Before students and staff head back to school next week, Fairfax schools will offer a testing event right at the Gatehouse Administration building in Falls Church. This will be a drive-through testing site open from noon until 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
It is specifically for symptomatic students and staff. An appointment is not needed, but people do have to register online first.
“I think with rapid testing, especially when it comes to schools, it gets a little risky. I mean, yes, was I nervous about having my child return to in-person school? Absolutely,” Yoo said. “Do I prefer that over virtual? One hundred percent.”
Most parents can probably relate in their belief that less virtual learning is the goal. For now, FCPS said it will offer more specific details of how exactly the test-to-stay program will work in January.