Evanston/Skokie District 65 is making a new COVID-19 testing option available that will prevent some students exposed to the virus from having to quarantine and miss in-person school.

In a message to the community, Superintendent Devon Horton says beginning this week, District 65 is implementing a “Test to Stay” program, “at the strong recommendation of local health departments.”

The program is done in cooperation with the SHIELD virus tests given at District 65 schools.

“Test to Stay” is for students who are not fully vaccinated, but who are identified as an in-school close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID.

The close contact students may remain in school if they take part in “Test to Stay” on days 1, 3, 5, and 7 after the last exposure to the positive case.

There are restrictions. “Test to Stay” is available for in-school exposures only, not for exposures at home or during family activities.

Horton also says that “Test to Stay” is only applicable when both the confirmed COVID case and the close contact “were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks, regardless of vaccination status. This would exclude close contacts identified at lunch.”

So while there are limits, the hope is to reduce the number of students requiring quarantine, particularly now as the number of COVID cases are on the rise.

If students do not take part in “Test to Stay,” and are exposed to COVID, or if they do test positive as part of the program, they will be required to quarantine.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.