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Test to Stay is keeping kids in school
Option has saved 543 school days from quarantine
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Even though three buildings at Great Bend USD 428 are considered COVID-19 cluster locations, Superintendent Khris Thexton said things are going pretty smoothly this semester.

Every Wednesday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment lists locations where there have been five or more cases with symptom onset in the past 14 days. Last week, Great Bend High School and Eisenhower Elementary were on the list, and Thexton told the school board Monday that Jefferson Elementary now has five cases in the past 14 days as well.

USD 428 releases its own data on COVID case tracking once a week. As of 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10, here are the active cases for each building, followed by the number of resolved cases for the semester:

• GBHS 7 and 27

• GBMS 5 and 14

• Eisenhower 4 and 26

• Little Panthers Preschool 0 and 4

• Jefferson 1 and 11

• Lincoln 6 and 10

• Park 0 and 1

• Riley 2 and 5

• District Education Center 0 and 1

• Helping Hands Preschool 0 and 0

• Special Services 0 and 2

This comes to 25 active cases and 83 quarantines; staff on Friday had six positive cases.

Thexton said custodians and others are emphasizing washing hands and sanitizing surfaces. “We’re also making sure that we’re wearing masks on school vehicles like we’re supposed to,” he said.

“I don’t want anybody to have any positive cases but under the circumstances, I think we’re doing a good job of keeping ... track of what’s going on. Our nurses are doing a fantastic job,” he added.

Monday was Day 14 of using the Test to Stay option that allows close contacts who are not COVID-19 positive to stay in school. They wear masks and are tested each morning. The test is considered non-invasive because the nasal swab is not as deep as with some COVID tests. For the first 13 days, the district has done 553 tests of students, for an average of 43 tests per day. Employees have been tested 32 times.

Among the 553 student tests, 543 were negative. Ten tests were positive and most of those were asymptomatic positive.

This means 543 school days that kids would have missed due to quarantine before Test to Stay were saved.

“It’s been very effective. I think our parents are appreciative,” he said. “Our goal was to keep kids in school and that’s been a positive.”

A grant has paid for tests and for 21 air purifiers that have been placed in high-contact areas in various buildings, such as lunch rooms, libraries and gyms.

Assistant Superintendent John Popp noted that positive cases don’t appear to spread to others in the buildings. The data are showing people who test positive are from home contacts or contacts outside of school. “What we’re seeing is that it’s coming to school with the kids, not (kids) getting it in school.”