Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image Stansbury High School junior Sam Clawson gets tested for COVID-19 at the school's test-to-stay program in the school's gym on Jan. 13, 2022.

January 17, 2022
Test to stay replaced with 1-day online learning

SHS student COVID-19 cases peaks at 193  

Stansbury High School had just concluded their test-to-stay testing on Thursday afternoon when state officials announced the program was being temporarily suspended.

The weight of the growing Omicron COVID-19 surge caused the governor, president of the state Senate, speaker of the state House of Representatives, and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to send a joint letter to school districts and charter schools suspending the legislature’s test-to-stay program and allowing schools to pivot to online learning.

The test-to-stay program at Stansbury High School found 146 positive cases of COVID-19 among SHS students after testing 53% of the student body. Students that had proof of vaccination or whose parents did not sign a permission slip were not tested.

Combined with students that previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days, SHS reached 193 positive 14-day running cases among students, according to school officials.

Under the requirements of the state test-to-stay law, students that test positive must be sent home for the recommended quarantine period, according to state code. 

Parents may exempt their students from the COVID-19 test, but those students must also stay home for the quarantine period, according to the law. Students that test negative may continue to attend in-person classes at the school.

The current recommended quarantine includes five-days isolation at home followed by five-days of mask wearing when in public.

However, with Thursday’s letter from the four state officials, Tuesday’s test-to-stay program at Tooele High school has been canceled, and instead of a five-day isolation period for the COVID-19 positive students, the Tooele County School announced an on-line learning day for Tuesday, Jan. 18 for all secondary schools, except Dugway.

Friday, Jan. 14 was a teacher work day with no students at schools, schools closed on Monday, Jan. 17 for Martin Luther King Day, the on-line learning day on Tuesday, combined with the weekend, add up to five-days of no students at school, the same amount of days required for isolation for positive COVID-19 cases.

When students return to school on Jan. 19, they will be asked to wear masks for the rest of the week.

The 2021 legislature not only required the test-to-stay program, it also required all schools to hold at least four in-person learning days each week.

However, the law also contained provisions for an exemption to the four-day in-person learning requirement. That exemption required the concurrence of the governor, president of the state Senate, speaker of the state House of Representatives, and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

A large number of requests for exemptions under the law is one reason the four state officials sent their joint letter to school boards on Thursday.

The rapid transmission of the Omicron variant allows the virus to spread before test-to-stay can identify infected students and prevent their interaction with other students, states the officials in their letter.

“Utah’s test-to-stay program does not effectively identify infection of the Omicron variant in time for isolation to limit its spread. Omicron’s rapid spread has already caused many schools to surpass the case threshold, statutorily requiring LEAs to institute test-to-stay programs. The law also requires the Utah De[artment of Health to support LEAs’ test to stay programs when requested. As a result, test-to-stay during the Omicron surge draws heavily on limited state testing resources while having limited benefits,” states the letter.

In addition to suspending the test-to-stay program, the letter also authorizes a temporary exemption to the state law requiring schools to hold four days of in-person learning each week. The letter authorizes school boards to pivot schools to online learning for a four-day period between Jan. 17 and Jan. 22.

According to the letter, the state legislature will take up legislation regarding test-to-stay and requirements for in-person learning during the first week of the 2022 General Legislative Session, which began on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

In the meantime, the letter asks school districts to defer conducting test-to-stay events in anticipation of changes to the program.

By taking advantage of the four-day weekend and adding one on-line weaning day, the Tooele County School District provides the opportunity for a five-day isolation for positive COVID-19 caes with a minimal disruption to in-person learning.

Elementary schools were not included in the Tooele County School District’s one on-line learning day. They will hold in-person classes on Tuesday, Jan. 18. No elementary school in Tooele County is at or near the test-to-stay threshold. With a threshold number of 14-day running total of 30 students testing positive, the highest number among all Tooele County School District elementary schools as of Monday, Jan. 17 is 15.

Tim Gillie

Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim has been writing for the Transcript Bulletin since October 2017. In February 2019 he was named as editor. In addition to being editor, Tim continues to write about Tooele County government, education, business, real estate, housing, politics and the state Legislature.A native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University, Tim became a journalist after a 20 year career with the Boy Scouts of America.

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