Education Health

Starting next week, students in Jefferson County Public Schools will have to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing in order to participate in sports and other afterschool activities. The Jefferson County Board of Education approved the program, known as ‘test-to-play’ earlier this month. It begins Nov. 1. 

Parents and guardians must give permission for students to be tested and eligible to participate.

JCPS District Health Manager Eva Stone said students in all types of activities must agree to testing, 

“That includes everything—all extracurricular activities. That can be sports, those can be clubs: everything from basketball to the chess club.”

The policy applies to all students, regardless of vaccination status.

“Students involved in extracurricular activities are often doing things—most often doing things—where the mitigation strategies that we have in place in other settings aren’t there. And so they’re in a higher risk setting,” Stone said.

For example, basketball players will often be closer than three feet, the recommended safe distance between students. 

“And so from a safety perspective, and with the incidence of breakthrough cases around the country, we felt like that was safest for students,” Stone said.

JCPS will provide the tests free of charge. Seneca High School Athletic Director Paul Holien said he’s working out the schedule for how students will receive their tests.

“We’ll run through our teams on different days based on practices and availability of some of our athletes,” he said.

Josh Leslie, a boys basketball coach and teacher at Seneca High School, said he’s been talking with student athletes and their families about how the policy works and the importance of participating.

“The main thing is we’re trying to get through this season and have a real season of basketball,” Leslie said. He believes ‘test-to-play’ will help teams stay ahead of outbreaks and avoid the game and practice cancellations the team had last year.

Families can sign ‘test-to-play’ permission forms here, on the district’s website. Stone said schools are also making paper copies available.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.