ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Public Education Department is implementing a new program that would allow unvaccinated staff and students to do a rapid 30 minute COVID-19 test if they come in contact with someone at school who has the virus. The ‘Test to Stay’ program would allow them to test rather than be quarantined at home under the previous mandate.

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“In the past, in the way that we were doing it before — close contacts — you would make that phone call and you would send them home for ten days and wouldn’t really hear from them for 10 days,” Lisa Patch, executive director for health services for Alamogordo schools.

School officials say parents have been nothing but supportive of the program. Parents were encouraged by the fact that students get to stay in school rather than having to be quarantined at home under the previous health mandate.

“This program has been a godsend for us. One thing that’s really bringing our parents together and our community together, this is one more tool to keep our schools open,” says. Dr. Kenneth Moore, superintendent of the Alamogordo School District.

The $64 million program’s funding is coming from the CDC. NMPED was encouraged by Alamogordo’s 63% parent sign-up. They hope the rest of the state is as receptive, wanting to keep kids and teachers in the classroom as much as possible and not close schools anymore and do online learning.

“It can be very jarring for students and staff as well and it’s not ideal for encouraging academic success and social and emotional learning growth in our students,” said Gregory Frostad, director of the Safe and Healthy Schools Bureau at the department.

Most school districts across the state have signed up for the program, Albuquerque Public Schools is waiting for final approval. Meanwhile, Roswell schools are currently approved for the program but are awaiting testing kits. The testing kit shortage is the big hurdle to getting the implementation.