School-based testing helps schools stay open safely for full-time, in-person learning.
Why School Testing Matters
Testing is free. There are no out-of-pocket costs or co-pays for schools or families. The Washington State Department of Health covers costs for school-based diagnostic and screening tests. You can select multiple testing types and vendors as part of your school’s strategy. Find out more on our Menu of Tests page.
The Test to Stay Program
The Test to Stay program is a modified quarantine approach for students and school staff who are exposed to COVID-19 in school and out-of-school settings.
- Are tested at least twice during the 5 days of quarantine and
- Are asymptomatic and
- Continue to wear a well-fitting mask when around others
Students and staff may also participate in extracurricular activities and school-related child care during modified quarantine, while following the above requirements. However, they must continue to quarantine from all social gatherings or community events.
To participate in Test to Stay, your school must be approved by your local health jurisdiction (LHJ). If your LHJ agrees that your school can use the Test to Stay approach, be sure to confirm the following:
- What types of tests should be used (rapid vs PCR or both)
- At what cadence you should be testing students
If you have LHJ approval (via a Memorandum of Agreement) and can answer those questions, L2R can provide the resources and technical support to implement Test to Stay in your school. Your L2R Program Manager can also assist you in the design and implementation of a Test to Stay program.
All L2R schools offering rapid antigen tests must start reporting results with SimpleReport for the upcoming school year. SimpleReport is a free, online platform developed by the CDC that automates the registration and reporting processes for schools using rapid antigen tests.
FAST FACT #1
Learn to Return is piloting this service with Washington-based company, Atlas Laboratories, to introduce pooled testing in K-12 schools.
Fast Fact #2
PCR testing – the gold standard for accuracy – is used to analyze samples from up to 20 participants per cohort or “pool.”
Fast Fact #3
Students self-administer a shallow nasal swab and deposit them into a single collection tube for each cohort.
FAST FACT #4
Sample collection for a cohort takes about 5 minutes and results are returned between 12-48 hours.
Fast Fact #5
Pooled testing participants are deidentified in the testing application. Personal information is not shared with the lab, but rather is based on student and staff school ID.
Fast Fact #6
No CLIA waiver is required.
What is the difference between diagnostic testing and screening?
Students or staff who are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 can take a test using a shallow nasal swab before leaving school grounds. While entirely voluntary, this approach shortens the length of time between testing and results while reducing the burden on families to arrange for a test.
Students and staff voluntarily opt-in to periodic, asymptomatic testing to identify infected individuals so that measures can be taken to prevent those individuals from infecting others. For a screening strategy to be effective, tests need to be conducted frequently (at least once per week) and require high participation.
Screening may be particularly helpful in situations in which other strategies like masking and distancing are difficult to implement (i.e. some special education classes and athletics), in locations where asymptomatic spread is higher (such as in elementary schools), and in areas with larger proportions of unvaccinated people.
For schools just beginning to incorporate a COVID-19 testing program, Learn to Return recommends starting by ensuring same-day diagnostic testing for anyone who has symptoms or may have been exposed.
Screening may be particularly helpful in situations in which other strategies like masking and distancing are difficult to implement.