As the COVID-19 Omicron variant spreads throughout the country, students in the Triad are preparing to return to the classroom following their holiday break.
News 2 reached out to schools across the Triad to see if they were changing any COVID-19 protocols with the omicron variant.
Stokes County Schools is keeping masks optional as long as the number of students who are either COVID positive or are in quarantine/isolation at every school stays below 5% daily.
Yadkin County Schools will require masks at least for the first week after the break, starting on January 3rd.
"It wasn't to the point where it was greatly concerning but we felt like with the Omicron variant being detected in North Carolina, we were starting to see numbers tick up in our schools," said Yadkin County superintendent Dr. Todd Martin.
Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, is strongly recommending masking in schools.
"The most important thing is that it fits and that your kid wears it over the nose and mouth and keeps it up to that level," Ohl said.
Yadkin County is also starting two new testing programs. The first will test students at school who are symptomatic. The student will go home and, if the test comes back negative and the student is symptom-free for at least 24 hours, they can return to the classroom.
"We feel like this will save parents a lot of work," Martin said. "What’s been happening (is) as a student becomes symptomatic, parents (have) to go to a medical provider, to a testing site and make that effort to get a COVID test done. We are going to be able to provide those services right there on our school campus and get those results fairly quickly and we think that will speed up things which will lead to a greater level of safety."
The other testing program is called "Test to Stay" for students who have been close contacts of other COVID-19 cases. The student will be rapid tested on days one, three, five, and seven after the day of exposure. If they continue to come back negative, they can stay in school.
"We feel like this is going to be a game-changer for us," said Martin. "We feel like this will help us further accomplish our goal of keeping as many students in school, as many days as we possibly can. So I’m excited about that."
Parents will have the option to opt into both of the programs. Martin said they will send out more information next week. The Yadkin County Board of Education will meet Monday and Martin says they will likely talk about COVID-19 metrics.
Guilford County Schools and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools already require masking.
Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston says the county department of health will be holding two vaccination pop-up clinics on school campuses on Monday. He said they are also working on testing clinics.