HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Schools will begin participating in a DHEC COVID-19 testing program aimed at keeping children healthy and in the classroom.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s “Test-To-Stay” makes rapid at-home COVID tests available for parents to pick up at local schools.

Lisa Bourcier, a spokesperson for Horry County Schools, said that making the test kits easily available was a deciding factor in moving forward with the program.

“At the very beginning of the school year, with the quarantine requirements, students were having to quarantine if they were, let’s say, a household contact, for up to 24 days,” Bourcier said, adding that spending nearly a month outside of the classroom is devastating for children.

Starting on Wednesday, if a student is considered a close contact with a COVID-positive person, that student can remain in school if they remain symptom-free, wear a mask for 10 days, get a COVID between five and seven days and provide test results before Day 8.

Guidelines, however, will vary based on vaccination status.

“If you are not vaccinated, a test is required between days five and seven. If you are vaccinated, a test is recommended on Day 5,” Bourcier said.

Although masks are not required in Horry County Schools, Dr. Gerald Harmon, the leading family physician at Tidelands Health, said this method would help limit the spread of the virus in schools.

“Science does show testing makes a difference,” Harmon said. “The accuracy of testing is usually reliable. They’re not 100%. They’re not 100% whether they’re positive or 100% whether they’re negative, but they are the best indicator we have right now.”

Horry County Schools joins Florence School District 2 in usingthe program. Students will not be tested at school but instead at home by their parents, thanks to an increased supply of tests.

“We know that [tests] have been hard to find these last couple of months,” Bourcier said.

Tests results are required to be submitted through an online form. The accuracy of those tests will be dependent on the parents.

“Read the manual,” Harmon said. “This is a big deal to ensure the best accuracy.”

“So, if it says swab that part of the nose, do it,” he said. “If it says hold it in there for two or three seconds or swab both sides, whatever the test says, that’s the manufacturer’s FDA-approved recommendation. Do it that way to ensure reliability,” he said.

District leaders hope the test kits will be delivered within the next two weeks.