Marietta City Schools launches COVID-19 ′test and stay’ initiative to keep kids in school

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Marietta City Schools launched new COVID-19 protocols this week to improve safety and cut down on absences.

The district gave Channel 2 Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose access to its ‘test and stay’ drive-thru.

The rapid test clinic is for Marietta students and staff members who are identified as close contacts and remain asymptomatic. If they test negative, they can go to school.

“I want to point out, they have to test every single day. So, if I’m coming in on a Monday, and I test negative, I can go to school that day, and then to come to school on Tuesday, I would come (get tested) again,” said Chuck Gardner, chief operations officer at MCS. “They get an email and the school gets (an) email letting them know the result. If they’re negative, they’re able to report to school. If they were positive, they would quarantine.”

Gardner said results are ready in 15 minutes.

According to Marietta’s new guidelines, the rapid antigen test is required on each school day of a seven-day quarantine.

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“We’re trying to strike that balance between kids being able to attend school who are healthy to do so and not missing school unnecessarily,” said Gardner. “Keeping schools open and giving kids an opportunity to (have) in-person learning is important, but we also know that safety has to remain our highest priority.”

Additional requirements for the “test and stay” protocol include:

  • Only school-based close contacts are eligible for “test and stay”; due to increased risk for transmission, students and staff who are identified as close contacts of a COVID-positive family member or person in the community are not eligible for “test and stay.”
  • The eligible student or staff member will be required to have an MCS-administered rapid antigen test on each school day of their seven-day quarantine. Upon receipt of a negative test result, the school will be immediately notified that the student or staff member can attend school for that specific day.
  • No student may ride the bus or enter the school building until the negative test is received for that specific day of quarantine; similarly, no staff member will be allowed to enter the building until cleared to do so.
  • Each day’s negative test result will allow the student to attend school and participate in MCS athletics and after-school activities on that specific day.
  • Each eligible student and staff member will receive details about the “test and stay” option once they are identified as a close contact. If they choose to participate, the close contact will be expected to register and select a preferred 30-minute window (between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.) to take the test the next morning.
  • The close contact will remain in their car while getting the rapid antigen test (drive-thru format).
  • At-home rapid antigen tests will not qualify for “test and stay”; the rapid antigen test must be administered through the MCS-MAKO Medical partnership.