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Rochester residents react to new RPS testing option plan

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- The latest update for Rochester Public Schools' (RPS) COVID mitigation strategy is rapid testing.

"Our strategy is broadly sound, but it's a rapidly changing virus. And so, our strategy needs to be rapidly and continually updated," said interim superintendent Kent Pekel. "Families would give to a student who is not symptomatic, who we don't think has COVID, but who was near an identified case in COVID to test in school. And if they are coming back negative, then they would be able to continue in an instruction."

This plan was proposed at a board meeting one day before the Minnesota governor also called for its implementation.

"If we can isolate and find out cases right away, not only can we protect the individual health of that child, we can keep the building in place without having to isolate the entire building and send folks home," said Governor Tim Walz.

For now, in Rochester the program is just a pilot. It will begin October 25th after the teacher MEA break, and it will be at only one school district at its elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Students who choose the test option will only need to stay home one day. Those who decline, must quarantine the full duration, which is currently 14 days.

If the test returns negative, the student can return to classes the following day.

"You'd be able to get back to your schoolwork and extracurricular activities quicker. I have no problem with it as long as it's completely safe and as effective as a normal quarantine," said Freddie Suhler, a high school student in Rochester.

One RPS parent believes another option to keep students learning would be a welcome addition as well.

"What I do wish they would do is bring back the hybrid learning, so then if they do have to stay out of school, they could at least log on and still see the classwork," said Jessica Phillips, a parent of multiple children in RPS schools.

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Noah Caplan

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