MONTPELIER – School districts, parents and students are still adjusting to Vermont’s new COVID-19 testing strategy in schools.
On Wednesday, Vermont Education Secretary Dan French and State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine updated state lawmakers on efforts to increase testing supplies as schools prepare to make the switch.
The ‘Test at Home’ program is a replacement for the ‘Test to Stay’ program that schools used in the fall. Under the new guidelines, at home antigen tests are given to students who share a classroom with someone who tests positive.
“We had always had operational concerns about maintaining contact tracing and Test to Stay,” French told the Senate Education Committee. “Once we had that broader public health consensus, that required us to change our thinking and make some adjustments.”
French said putting the responsibility to test on families has it’s drawbacks, but in this case, the ends justify the means.
“There’s a tradeoff there, yes we lose control of some of the data but what we gain from it is a broader deployment of these tests so we think that will compensate for that difference,” French said. “More to the point, it allows us to keep pace with the speed of Omicron.”
As parents, school districts and students adjust, state officials are working to increase testing supplies. French said the state wouldn’t have adopted the new policies without having a sense of security about that.
Dr. Levine said that a large influx of recent deliveries means more schools will be making the switch over the coming days.
“We’re literally talking about 400,000 antigen tests coming into the state yesterday,” Dr. Levine said. “Not every single one of those is going to the school environment, but the majority are. Those are the kinds of purchases that are being made, those are the kinds of supply chains that we’re actively pursuing all of the time.”
In the Senate Education Committee, lawmakers forwarded along some questions they’ve been hearing from parents, many of them having to do with the basics of this new process.
“The school becomes a distribution center,” Dr. Levine said. “The entire classroom is notified of a case and that everyone in the classroom was a potential contact. The nurses will be able to distribute antigen tests to the members of that class that the student takes home and utilizes in the home environment.”