LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Students at Jefferson County public schools will need to test negative for COVID-19 regardless of their immunization status before they are allowed to participate in extracurricular activities starting next week.
The district’s new “test-to-play” program, approved Oct. 7 by the Jefferson County School Board, begins Nov. 1.
JCPS students involved in sports or other extracurricular activities in their schools will be required to take a weekly COVID-19 test and produce negative results before they can participate from next week. Parents and guardians must complete a consent form before their children begin the testing regime, and testing is available at all schools in the district.
“We want to make sure everyone stays safe participating in winter sports,” Seneca High School athletic director Paul Holien said at a press conference at the school on Monday.
It remains to be seen exactly how many JCPS students will ultimately participate in the program. Dr Eva Stone, head of health services at JCPS, said schools are collecting lists of students involved in extracurricular activities and families still have time to enroll their children in the testing program.
Unlike the district’s optional “test-to-stay” program designed to reduce student and staff quarantines, “test-to-play” will be mandatory for all students participating in extracurricular activities in their schools.
This includes students who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccines have been approved for anyone 12 years of age and older, and the United States Food and Drug Administration plans to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old.
Stone said students participating in activities, especially indoor athletics, are at a higher risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19 because they are often found in environments where mitigation measures like masking do not. are not in place.
“From a security perspective and with the incidence of groundbreaking cases across the country, we thought it was the safest for students,” Stone said of testing students regardless of their status. vaccine.
The response to the district’s new requirement for school-based extracurricular activities has been “kind of a mixed bag,” Stone said.
“There are people who are very, very happy to see this measure passed because I mean that’s what you see in sport and in other contexts, and so it’s something that can help add another level of security for students, ”she said. “… There are people who weren’t so supportive, who were upset with the decision to get tested. “
Holien said families of Seneca students who participate in winter sports mostly hosted the district’s “test-to-play” program in a meeting Thursday.
“The parents here have been great,” he said. “… They want their children to play.”
Josh Leslie, head coach of the Seneca boys’ basketball team, said families on the team have been “overwhelmingly positive” about the new COVID-19 testing requirement so far.
“We met a relative the other night about this, and they seemed positive,” he said. “I haven’t heard any negative feedback on this, and I hope it stays that way.”
Some JCPS parents, however, are not fans of the new COVID-19 testing requirement for extracurricular activities.
Steve Ullum, of the Let Them Learn Facebook group in JCPS, said the district’s “test-to-play” program is an example of the Jefferson County School Board’s “runaway authority”.
“It’s breeding ground for disaster when parents are taken out of the conversation and there is no governing body to oversee any of their decisions,” Ullum said in a message to WDRB News.
Seneca basketball players Josh Lewis and Nevaeh Saunders say they and their teammates are ready to participate in the district’s “test-to-play” program each week before entering the field.
“I spoke to a few teammates who had issues with it at first, but now they see it’s really important that we do this,” said Lewis, a sophomore on the basketball team. boys ball.
“We have students here who are playing their final year,” said Saunders, a senior on the women’s basketball team. “We want their last year to be worth it.”
The Seneca boys’ basketball team had to cancel the team’s activities twice due to COVID-19 exposures last season, “and we have never had a positive case,” said Leslie.
“We were going to start, we had to stop, start, have to stop, so we just could never develop that consistency,” he said.
Leslie hopes other Kentucky school districts create similar COVID-19 testing programs and help increase the number of students vaccinated.
He said all of his players have been vaccinated and Seneca will host the first COVID-19 vaccination clinic for JCPS students on Wednesday.
“That’s why we try to get this message across to get as many teams vaccinated, to get as many players vaccinated as possible so that no one has to skip and miss an important moment, especially when it becomes important towards the end. of the year, ”Leslie said.
COVID-19 Test Consent Forms for JCPS Families are available here. Hard copies can also be collected from schools.
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