Montgomery Co. plans test-to-stay program expansion in schools

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that he’s adding $30 million for school testing resources, which comes as welcome news in Montgomery County, where a test-to-stay pilot program has been underway, with plans to expand when students return in January.

“Our intention is to greatly expand test-to-stay with the return of students in January,” Earl Stoddard, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer said.

“That’s how we believe we can keep kids in person versus having to go remote as Prince George’s County has done,” he said, adding that so far, the program has saved some 240 student days in the classroom.

Prince George’s County schools announced last week that it will shift to virtual learning until Jan. 18.

Stoddard said that instead of sending children home after a potential exposure to someone with the coronavirus, the intensive testing regimen allows students to remain in school while being monitored.

The extra funding Hogan announced Tuesday is an effort to deal with a dramatic surge in the state’s COVID-19 case rate.

While Stoddard said it was good to hear that Hogan planned on pouring additional money into testing resources for schools, there’s another possible hurdle to expanding the in-school testing model.

“We have a large number of those test kits now,” Stoddard said. The biggest obstacle was “much more the personnel to run the tests, upload the data, etc.”

Stoddard said getting a handle on the number of COVID-19 cases is critical, not only for keeping individuals healthy but from a “continuity of services” viewpoint.

If a large number of faculty, staff, school health nurses become ill during this wave of the pandemic, Stoddard said it could affect the ability to keep schools safe and secure “from a ratio perspective of providers to students.”

Maryland’s COVID-19 data, largely restored on the state Department of Health website Monday, showed a 24-hour increase of more than 6,200 cases statewide. As of Tuesday night, the dashboard still did not have a county-by-county breakdown of case rates.

State information technology officials said that a criminal investigation into the cyberattack is currently underway, and data will continue to be added as restoration continues.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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