Test-to-stay keeping exposed Dutchess County students in the classroom

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WAPPINGER FALLS, Dutchess County (WABC) -- The CDC recently gave the green light to test-to-stay in schools across the country, which allows unvaccinated students who are exposed to COVID-19 to test rather than face mandatory home quarantines.

The agency says test-to-stay can be employed in addition to other practices, such as vaccination and at least 3-feet of physical distance among students wearing masks, and one district in Dutchess County is taking advantage with lots of success.

Angelina Ciulla is taking a quick test before school -- No studying required, just a nasal swab that lasts a few seconds.

"It doesn't go all the way up your nose," she said. "It didn't hurt. It just feels a little weird for a second."

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Every child at the testing center has had an exposure to COVID in school. Normally, that would require a quarantine period of 10 to 14 days. But the Wappingers Falls Central School District has implemented the test-to-stay option.

An exposed student is given a rapid test in the morning, and if it's negative, they can attend classes that day.

"I like this because when you have to do a full 10 days, I feel like they get really behind," parent Charity Noel said.

The students must be tested for seven consecutive days, and no news is good news. But a positive result means a phone call from the testers.

"The minute that we know that there's even a hint of a positive, we contact the family, and we contact the school districts," pharmacist Neal Smoller said. "We let everybody know what's going on, so that way everybody implements the plan that we've already set in place."

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Since starting the test-to-stay program in early November, some 250 students who would have otherwise been quarantined have been able to attend classes.

"Any opportunities we have to keep our kids in school in a safe environment, we're going to take advantage of," Superintendent Dwight Bonk said. "And once we heard from the county that this was something we could do, we got right on it."

Other districts are expected to follow, and governors Kathy Hochul and Phil Murphy have indicated test-to-stay protocols will be rolled out in New York and New Jersey.

"That is why we're in communication right now with the school superintendents during, there's a short break between now and January 1 and January 3 when the kids are back," Hochul said. "We've ordered already 2 million of the tests going right to the schools."

Parents seemed in favor of the option.

"It's better for them overall," parent Diane Ciulla said. "They lost so much time in the past two years. It's silly to not do this.

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