Members of the Houston board of education on Friday approved participating in a new state program designed to keep students in classrooms and alleviate quarantines that plagued the district last week.

“Test to Stay” is a newly introduced COVID-19 program from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Meeting in the special session, the board OK’d the just-released program after spending a few days to review it since its meeting last Tuesday.

The policy allows students who are identified as a close contact to remain in school classrooms and extracurricular activities if they don’t develop COVID-19 symptoms, continue to wear a face mask in school for 14 days after exposure and the student must not have been exposed to the virus from their own family. Under the option, regular testing would occur during the first week of possible exposure. Houston already had test kits provided to it at no cost. While keeping students in chairs, it was acknowledged that the testing may put additional burdens on some staff, such as nursing and secretarial staff.

The board has been engaged in policies over the nearly last two years aimed at two things: Keeping students, faculty and safe and aiming to keep pupils in classrooms rather than opting for virtual learning. Earlier, after quarantines rose to above a 9 percent policy threshold in any building, the district was forced to resume mask wearing in the high school and middle school. When the situation improved, masks then became optional on Oct. 4. At the time of last week’s board meeting, the high school was back with a big jump in quarantines and Friday’s high school football game was canceled.

Some parents at the first meeting last week — many of them loudly vocal — opposed any mask wearing and resisted anyone other than parents making decisions for them. It is a scene being reported at many districts.

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