On the 3rd of August When the Marietta, Ga., schools opened, the extremely contagious Delta variety was sweeping the South, and children were not immune. A New Covid Testing Model Aims to Spare Students From Quarantine.

By the 20th of August, 51 pupils in the city’s small school system had tested positive for the coronavirus. Almost 1,000 others had been identified as close contacts and were required to quarantine at home for seven to ten days.

“That’s a lot of schools, especially for kids who missed a lot of schools or had to switch to virtual for 18 months because of the pandemic,” said Grant Rivera, superintendent of Marietta City Schools.

The district’s strategy shifted last week. Close contacts can now continue to attend school as long as they have no symptoms and test negative for the virus every day for seven days.

A growing number of school districts are resorting to testing to keep more children in the classroom while avoiding upsetting their parents’ work lives. The resource-intensive strategy, also known as “test to stay” or “modified quarantine,” permits pupils who have been exposed to the virus to remain in school as long as they undergo frequent Covid tests, which are usually given by the school, and follow other precautions.

Experts agree that youngsters ill with the virus should isolate at home, but what to do about their classmates is a conundrum.

Allowing children who have been exposed to the virus to continue in school poses a possible transmission risk, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is “insufficient evidence” to justify the policy. Close contacts who have not been fully vaccinated should instead be quarantined for up to 14 days. (According to the agency’s school guidance, vaccinated close contacts can remain in the classroom as long as they are asymptomatic and wear a mask.)

The C.D.C. stated in a statement to The New York Times, “At this time, we do not promote or condone a test-to-stay programme.” “However, we are working with multiple jurisdictions who have opted to use these tactics to obtain more information,” the agency noted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a single incidence of Covid at an elementary school, where youngsters are often too young to be vaccinated, can force an entire classroom of children out of school. If one of their classmates develops the virus, all unvaccinated pupils in New York City must be quarantined for seven to ten days, according to school protocols.

Even though the school year has only just begun, some districts in Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and other Covid hotspots have already had to isolate hundreds, if not thousands, of pupils. According to official records, approximately 30,000 Mississippi kids were quarantined in mid-August.

According to a recent study published this week in The Lancet, the test-to-stay technique may be safe. The randomised controlled experiment comprised over 150 British schools and discovered that case rates were not significantly higher at schools that let close contacts of infected students or staff members remain in class with daily testing than at schools that imposed at-home quarantines.

Researchers discovered that roughly 2% of school-based close contacts eventually tested positive for the virus, implying that schools were pulling 49 uninfected pupils out of class every time one student tested positive.

“When you put it in the greater context of what we’re doing in society, I believe it’s placing a very strong penalty on young people,” said Dr. Bernadette Young, an infectious disease expert at the University of Oxford and the paper’s primary author.

The United Kingdom stated this summer that children classified as close contacts were no longer need to be quarantined, however, they were advised to be tested for the virus.

As school officials begin their third epidemic academic year, many believe it is time for a change.

“The idea behind this is to keep healthy kids in school and sick kids at home.” According to Isaac Seevers, superintendent of Lebanon City Schools in Ohio, which is poised to launch a test-to-stay programme. “I believe there is genuine confidence that this will be a game-changer in how we learn to live with Covid.