Test to Stay: North Salem Central School District considers whether to implement the COVID program for students


The North Salem Central School District is exploring whether to implement a new “Test To Stay” (TTS) program that would allow unvaccinated children who are close contacts of people with COVID-19 to avoid school quarantine. Like so many issues related to the pandemic, however, the program is complicated.

Under Test To Stay, a student considered a close contact of a person with COVID-19 must test negative with a rapid NAAT or antigen test on each school day for seven days after exposure. The daily test must be conducted and results received before the school day begins. While negative results would allow a student to remain in school, the student would still be required to quarantine outside of school instruction/academic periods, including on weekends and holidays.

Adam VanDerStuyf, assistant superintendent of pupil personnel services for North Salem schools, said, “we are currently evaluating whether or not we can equitably satisfy the requirements outlined in the guidance document and I have shared several of our questions with our District Medical Director. I've also had several conversations with Department of Health officials who have expressed their concern about the availability of tests for us to continually sustain this option.”

Neither New York State nor Westchester County will provide resources for schools to participate in TTS, which raises questions about how such a program would be funded within individual school districts. State guidance says that families should not have to pay for testing or if they do, the inability to pay should not prevent a student from being eligible for TTS.

Complicating matters further, the New York State Department of Health does not recommend Test To Stay, though it does allow local health departments the option to use the strategy. On Thursday, December 9, Westchester County approved TTS. Putnam County has not yet granted approval. The North Salem Central School District’s student population includes residents of both counties.

“As of now, Putnam County residents will have to be excluded which impacts our ability to offer this program equitably to all students as required,” VanDerStuyf said.

VanDerStuyf added that the district will continue to follow up on answers to implementation questions in order to determine whether or not the district can equitably implement TTS. “More to come,” he said.

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