Quick and easy testing is an important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, in addition to vaccinations and wearing a mask. Testing can catch infections early in students and staff with COVID-19, even before they feel sick. Testing helps keep students and teachers safe and in school. School COVID-19 tests are free for students and school staff.
There is no "one size fits all" way to test for schools. Schools work with their local health department to decide the best way to test based on what is going on in their community.
Schools may want to have a testing plan ready to use in case community COVID-19 cases increase. Or, schools may want to do testing on a regular basis to make sure that COVID-19 cases on campus remain low.
Regular COVID-19 screening testing in school can prevent infections from coming onto campus and can provide information about what is happening in the school community, so it is a great tool for schools. In the pandemic, schools have usually had much lower numbers of cases compared to the surrounding community.
Testing all students and staff regularly can identify people who have COVID-19 without any symptoms. This gives schools and parents an early start in isolating the student or staff member to prevent spread to other people on campus, as well as increase confidence that COVID-19 numbers on campus will remain low.
Schools also may choose to test smaller groups of students and staff on a regular schedule, switching each time to test a new randomly chosen group. This provides a snapshot of school cases without having to test all students.
Some school testing may also include testing for people with symptoms, who can return to school if their test is negative and their symptoms have improved. It is important to monitor your child's health at home. Anyone, including school visitors, who feels sick or has sick symptoms should stay home from campus and get tested before coming back to school. They should only return to campus after symptoms have improved and they have a negative COVID-19 test.
California has one of the best COVID-19 testing program for schools in the country. It is free to schools and there are resources to help schools get testing on their campus. It is also free to students and staff if testing is done by the school.
If you have questions about COVID-19 testing at your child's school, contact the school to ask what testing approach they are using.
If your child has been exposed to COVID-19, or if you are exposed or test positive and cannot go to work, you may be eligible to receive certain benefits, including paid sick leave regardless of immigration status. Learn more at Work Leave and Pay Benefits Related to COVID-19.