State officials released new guidance Friday for testing and quarantine protocols in Vermont’s K-12 schools.

The updated protocols replaced the in-school Test to Stay program for close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases with an at-home rapid testing process.

According to officials, the changes will go into effect as soon as schools have the tests necessary to implement them.

In a press release, state officials said the new approach “addresses the current state of the pandemic in Vermont by allowing schools to respond more quickly, and reducing the burden of contact tracing and testing on staff, which will help schools stay open and functioning as normal as possible.”

The original Test to Stay model relied on contact tracing and in-school PCR and rapid antigen testing. However, state officials called the process “too slow and logistically burdensome” to keep up with the rapidly spreading omicron variant.

The Test at Home initiative also uses rapid antigen tests but moves the location of the testing to at-home.

Schools will still have access to in-school antigen and PCR tests to respond to students who become symptomatic at school or who may have difficulty testing at home, officials noted.

Under the new protocols, when an individual tests positive at school, schools will inform families of children in class with that individual.

Vaccinated students and vaccinated and boosted staff do not need to quarantine, but will receive two antigen tests to administer at home on the fourth and fifth days of their possible exposure.

Families of unvaccinated students will receive rapid test kits from the school and be asked to test the student at home each morning for five days.

The student can continue to attend school during that five-day period if they test negative each day. Proof of the negative does not need to be submitted to the school.

If students choose not to test, they must stay at home for five days and may return to school if they have no symptoms. Taking a PCR or LAMP test is recommended on or after day five.

Students identified as close contacts outside of school and school staff who are not fully vaccinated may also receive rapid tests from their schools and follow the same five-day protocol.

State officials added that in the coming weeks, school nurses will be provided rapid PCR-like tests so that they can quickly test symptomatic students or staff on-site.

Visit education.vermont.gov/covid19/testing for more guidance and information on school testing.

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