COVID safety team update for Dec. 3: Test-to-Stay, quarantine rules and rapid tests in schools

A Message from BPS COVID Safety Team

As part of our ongoing work to keep you informed about COVID-19 safety practices and protocols, we share regular updates regarding protocols for our schools and facilities.

BPS Offers Test to Stay Protocol

As part of our priority to maximize in-person learning time for students and in recognition of low COVID-19 transmission in schools, Bellingham Public Schools is now offering Test to Stay, which is a protocol in the Washington Department of Health guidance for K-12 schools.

Test to Stay provides on-site rapid testing for unvaccinated students who are exposed to COVID-19 at school. As long as they continue to test negative for COVID-19, they can continue to attend class during their quarantine period.

What does Test to Stay look like for those who choose to participate?

  • Families must give consent for their child to participate in COVID-19 testing at school.
  • Test to Stay is for students who are:
    • not fully vaccinated
    • identified as close contacts because of a COVID-19 exposure at school
  • Students will be tested for COVID-19 during the school day using a rapid test.
  • As long as they continue to test negative, they can continue attending class during their quarantine period.
  • Students must quarantine outside of school and may not participate in sports or after-school activities until day eight after exposure.
  • If a student develops symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home, get tested and notify their school.

Please note: this program is only available for students who are close contacts due to an exposure at school and does not apply to students who are close contacts outside of school.

Remember, we only test close contacts. If you do not receive a notification about Test to Stay, you can assume your child is not a close contact.

We are pleased to offer this additional strategy to help kids stay in school and keep schools open. For more information on Test to Stay, see the  FAQ on our COVID-19 webpage.

New shortened quarantine for students who are close contacts

The Washington State Department of Health has adopted new quarantine guidance for students in public schools, which includes a shortened quarantine option. Students who are close contacts and not eligible for Test-to-Stay because their exposure was outside of school may now return to school on day eight after exposure if they have received a negative COVID-19 test on or after day five.

All schools now have rapid tests and can provide an onsite rapid test to students when they return to school. Students who are not tested may return to school on day 11 after exposure.

We are currently working on implementing this new quarantine guidance and plan to be fully operational by January.

Rapid Tests for Staff and Students

Each school has rapid antigen COVID-19 testing available for staff. These tests are available to staff who have symptoms of COVID-19 but feel well enough to work and to staff who are identified as close contacts. We are working to make these tests available to students as well. As our testing capacity increases you can expect to see more students accessing COVID-19 tests with parent permission during their regular school day if they have symptoms.