All students are required to either get tested or enter a 10-day self-quarantine on Friday, January 22, as Alta crossed the one percent limit of positive Coronavirus cases. This will be a part of the new Test to Stay program aiming to ensure safety, “consistency, stability, and continuity” for students, teachers, and staff, said Alta’s principal, Dr. Brian McGill.
News of this development came after positive cases at Alta reached 27, and after the positive test percentage (given by the Canyons District COVID-19 Dashboard) increased to more than 20% since the beginning of December. The fundamental idea of the “Test to Stay” program is to provide an alternative to a full lock down situation with the school, where students would be forced into full time online learning once again. Assistant Principal Kelli Miller further explained, saying that “Instead of closing school again… students who test negative will remain in school next week, and those who test positive or choose not to test will learn remotely.”
The goal, according to McGill, has been the difficult-to-attain and seemingly opposite goals of both maximizing safety of all that are at school while “also maximizing the time of in-person instruction, which we all know is best for our students.” This goal has been supported by evidence such as the negative trend many students’ grades took during the first semester, as well as by the actual opinions of students with respect to preferred models for learning.
After returning from the long MLK-Day weekend, students began going down to the gym with advisory classes to receive testing on Tuesday, with classes staggered, where they waited in line with a sticker for their turn. Upon reaching the front of the line, the testers used a swab similar to a Q-tip to get the samples needed from students’ noses. The test received is a rapid-antigen test, which can give results in mere minutes while still maintaining extremely high accuracy. Families received an email at the email address “provided during the registration process” containing each student’s testing results by the end of the day, according to Miller.
Peter Adams, the state program manager for mobile testing at the Utah Department of Health, was surprised by the efficiency of the process, stating, “I’m impressed! I heard [Alta High School] was testing 1000 students in an hour, and I said ‘no way.’ I came to observe. It’s gone smoothly!”
A program similar to Test-to-Stay had already been implemented for sports programs and other extracurricular activities such as cheer, basketball, swim, and the musical, with all members, coaches, and advisors being tested every 14 days. Similar to Test-to-Stay, any students that want to continue participating must be tested in order to do so.
Adam Carr, remarking on the ongoing Coronavirus testing, commented that “It can get pretty tedious, but this is still definitely worth it, and the school testing is worth it too. It’s just way better than getting the school shut down.”