COVID-19 Testing Program for K-12 Schools Program One-Pager K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program Guidance COVID-19 screening testing can help protect our school communities and help keep students in the classroom. Between December 2020 and June 2021, 58 school districts, charter schools, and private schools participated in NCDHHS’s COVID-19 School Testing program, receiving over 70,000 rapid tests to perform diagnostic and routine screening testing. Schools reported that testing: increased confidence from families that in-person learning was safe, and allowed schools to rapidly identify and quickly quarantine suspected cases of COVID-19, which helped get students and staff back into the classroom faster. NCDHHS encourages schools to implement a COVID-19 screening testing program for the upcoming school year. Testing will remain a crucial mitigation measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Screening testing is particularly important given that students under 12 do not yet have the option to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. State-Funded Testing Program Options As announced in June, NCDHHS is offering two testing program options for school districts, charter schools, and private schools to select from for the 2021-2022 school year: Option 1: State-Contracted Vendor Testing Schools may choose to use a state-contracted vendor that is available to all schools performing testing of students and staff. A vendor will be provided at no cost to schools that elect to participate in this program option. Option 2: Independent Testing Schools may choose to perform testing on their own or in partnership with a non-state sponsored vendor. NCDHHS will provide tests at no cost to all schools who elect to perform testing independently. Funding for Temporary School Health Staff Additionally, public schools participating in either option are eligible to receive funding for temporary school health staff. NCDHHS will provide schools that choose this additional support, and meet the requirements of this program, with funds to hire: a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), and/or unlicensed assisted personnel (UAP). NCDHHS encourages all schools and districts to opt-in to a COVID-19 testing program by September 13, 2021. More detailed information, guidance, and an opt-in registration form will be sent to all school and district superintendents and school health administrators in early July. Frequently Asked Questions These FAQs will be updated regularly as new information is available. Last updated on 6/29/2021. For questions about the process, contact K12covidtesting@dhhs.nc.gov Testing Program Options What if we already have a testing program for COVID-19? Please continue with your existing program if it is working for your school or district. NCDHHS still encourages your school to complete the COVID-19 testing program opt-in registration form, which will be available beginning in early July. The opt-in form will let us know if your school or district: already has a testing program; or would like to request additional support resources or make changes to your testing program. Will entire districts sign up for the program or will it be individual schools in a district? Districts will sign up and make decisions about the schools that they want to include. What if we do not want to test for COVID-19? NCDHHS strongly encourages schools and districts to implement a COVID-19 screening testing program for the 2021-22 school year. Testing remains a crucial mitigation measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the testing program is voluntary and schools are being asked to opt-in. Who will be notified when schools and districts can sign-up for the program? NCDHHS will send the opt-in form to school leaders to complete via the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and agencies that serve independent schools. However, we will also be notifying school health nurses and staff as well as Local Health Districts (LHD) when the opt-in form is live. Is a specific type of COVID-19 testing required for participation in the program? We are continuing to define what type of testing requirements will exist to participate in the program and receive staffing funds. The grant funding does not mandate that a specific type of testing be performed. When will funds for health care staffing be released? Funding for the program has been secured and NCDHHS is in the process of defining the process for releasing staffing funds to participating schools. More information will be communicated when available, likely in early July. If my school’s nurse program is provided through the LHD and my school opts-in to receive NCDHHS support, can funding for hiring go through the LHD? NCDHHS is still defining the process for how funds will be released; however, our intention is to work in partnership with entities that manage school nurse programs, whether it be the school itself, LHD, health alliance or health system. More specifics on this process will be communicated when available. Will supplies (such as gowns, face shields, and gloves) be provided to schools for the next school year? NCDHHS does not currently have plans to provide these supplies to schools for the upcoming school year. If using Option 2 (independent testing), can schools use non-nurse staff to do antigen testing? Non-licensed individuals may perform tests under the direct supervision of a licensed medical professional as defined in the State Health Director’s Standing Order. Testing Logistics How have schools communicated with parents about COVID-19 testing? NCDHHS provided a downloadable K-12 Communications Toolkit with relevant resources for participants in the spring testing program. This toolkit will be extensively updated this summer to reflect the new, expanded testing program. NCDHHS will be providing additional communications resources (e.g. updated communications toolkit and printed materials) to support participating schools in communicating with families. Additionally, some schools have found it helpful to conduct town hall discussions in which school leaders talk about pressing issues with members of the community. These discussions are often recorded to ensure that as many people as possible are able to listen in. An example town hall discussion provided by Cumberland County Schools last spring can be viewed at: "Coffee Conversations" Plan A Update. Who is eligible for COVID-19 testing? K-12 students and school/district staff are eligible for both diagnostic and screening testing. Staff should include substitute teachers and transportation, food nutrition, and custodial staff. Districts and schools performing independent testing may also choose to test family members of students; however, family members will not be eligible for testing by the state-contracted vendor except in connection with event screening testing (e.g., ahead of athletics events). Where should symptomatic students stay while they wait to take a COVID-19 test, get their results, and/or wait for their parents to pick them up? Schools should use an isolation space for those needing a diagnostic test, as discussed in the StrongSchoolsNC Tookit and guidance. Will all students in a participating school be tested? Each school or district will make the decisions for how to implement their testing program.