Frequently-Asked-Questions-Preliminary-K-12-Testing-Framework--2022--23-School-Year Frequently Asked Questions around K-12 Testing

Frequently Asked Questions around K-12 Testing

​​​​​​​​​Table of Con​​​tents​


What testing programs are currently available for schools?

CDPH's CLIA-waived testing program has ended as of November 10, 2023. Schools can continue CLIA-waived testing by contracting with a testing vendor or by obtaining their own CLIA waiver through Laboratory Field Services (LFS).  The CDPH at-home testing program has come to an end effective February 29, 2024.  Local Education Agencies (LEAs) can apply to participate in the Education Department's COVID-19 Testing Supply Program to obtain at-home tests.  Individuals can also receive tests through insurance.  Read more about how people with insurance can get free tests here: CDPH How to Get T​​ested.​

K–12 Guidance 2023-24 School Year and CO​V​​ID-19 School Guidance​

Are schools required to have a testing program?

Although schools are not required to maintain a testing program, CDPH strongly recommends that schools facilitate access to testing, particularly for vulnerable populations within their communities. Testing, especially of individuals presenting COVID-19 symptoms and those exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, remains an important step for minimizing transmission and keeping students in the classroom for in-person instruction.  

What are the requirements for workplac​​e or employee testing in K–12 Schools for 2023/24? 

In the workplace, employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations or in some workplaces the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard (PDF), and should consult those regulations for additional applicable requirements.

For questions on implementation, contact Cal/OSHA directly.

What should we do with leftover or expired testing supplies?

Reach out to your local County Office of Education (COE) and your​ local health department (LHD) to determine if there is a need elsewhere for your unexpired tests. If not needed elsewhere, please refer to the instructions below by test type.  

For over-the-counter (OTC)/at-h​​​ome tests

Note that many OTC/at-home test brands have had formal extensions by the FDA and are valid for many months after the date printed on the box. For more information, visit the FDA OTC COVID-19 Diagnostics Tests page.

OTC/at-home tests can be disposed of in the regular trash.

For professional antigen tests

Expiration dates for the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA)-waived professional antigen tests have been extended. You can view NEW extended expiration dates by lot number by using the BinaxNOW Lot Expiry Lookup tool.

 Unwanted, unexpired professional tests cannot be returned to CDPH for reuse due to federal regulations. We cannot help directly facilitate transfer of tests due to regulatory reasons. Your local COE or health department may provide local guidance for excess unexpired tests. 

All unused swabs/test cards/liquid reagent from professional tests can be disposed of in the regular trash.

For PCR/Molecular Tests

Wet swab PCR tests (tubes with liquid in them) must be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. Dry swab PCR tests can be disposed of in regular trash.  ​

Over-the-Counter (OTC) and At-Home Antigen Tests 

Will OTC/at-home tests continue to be provided by the state in the 2023-24 school year?

The CDPH at-home testing program has come to an end effective February 29, 2024.  Local Education Agencies (LEAs) can apply to participate in the Education Department’s COVID-19 Testing Supply Program to obtain at-home tests.  Individuals can also receive tests through insurance.  Read more about how people with insurance can get free tests here: CDPH How to Get Tested​.

When can OTC/at-home tests be used? 

At-home tests can be used in any of the same scenarios that professional/at-school antigen tests are used. Some examples of use of antigen tests include:

  • Testing of symptomatic individuals.

  • Outbreak response testing

  • Testing of individuals exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID- 19. 

  • Testing as recommended by CDPH COVID-19 Isolation Guidance

What if my OTC tests are older than the extended expiration date found on the FDA website?

Although CDPH recommends replacing tests that have expired with new te​​sts, if no new tests are readily available, you may use your expired test as long as the internal control remains valid. 

What are the advantages of antigen testing in school communities?

Lab-based molecular testing (PCR/LAMP) has several disadvantages in the school setting. It is sensitive enough that it picks up very low levels of virus, both before and after an infection (sometimes for months). Detecting low levels of virus in a person who is not able to transmit can make them unnecessarily miss school, despite feeling well and not being a risk to others. Also, because lab-based molecular tests (PCR/LAMP) need to go to a lab, results are much slower. The time from nose swab to result is often 2–3 days (including time at collecting site, time in transport, and time in lab processing). For someone who has virus levels that are high enough to transmit virus, an antigen test that gives rapid results is much better to guide immediate isolation to prevent transmission. Antigen tests may not catch every early or late case, but they are good at detecting high levels of virus, when it is important to isolate immediately.

What are the differences between professional antigen testing versus at-home testing? 

OTC/at-home and professional antigen tests are similar in terms of performance.

OTC/at-home tests are meant to be used as self-tests by individuals or parents/guardians   If they are used outside the home, they must still be completed (both conducting and interpreting the test) by individuals or parents/guardians. Users should follow the age parameters for self-administration associated with the particular OTC/at-home test they are using (typically 14 years or older). For those younger than the minimum age, guardians can administer and perform the test for children. ​

Professional antigen testing must be used if a staff member performs tests on others. CDPH’s CLIA-waived testing program has ended as of November 10, 2023. Schools can continue CLIA-waived testing by contracting with a testing vendor or by obtaining their own CLIA waiver through Laboratory Field Services (LFS). ​

Can school staff provide an OTC/at-home kit to a student to self-administer on campus?

Yes, school staff can provide a student or staff that meets the age requirements to self-administer the OTC/at-home test on campus. Users should follow the age parameters (typically 14 years or older to be able to self-administer the test) associated with the particular brand of OTC/at-home test they are using. OTC/at-home tests are self-tests to be completed (both swabbing and performing the test) by individuals or parents/guardians regardless of where they test (in their home or elsewhere) and should not be used by staff to test others.

How can students report their OTC/at-home test results?

Individuals can report at-home tests to the CDC/Public Health using the Make My Test Count website.

Some of our staff and families who have used OTC/at-home antigen tests have tested negative initially and then tested positive on day 4 or 5. Can we trust OTC/at-home results?

This has been reported with both professional and OTC/at-home antigen test results. Antigen tests are about 60% sensitive when compared with PCR tests. However, for persons with enough virus to be likely infectious, antigen test sensitivity increases into the 90% range. What this means is that antigen tests are very good at letting someone know if they can infect others and results are available in 15 minutes. For best results in symptomatic patients, we recommend repeating a negative antigen testing with at least 24–48 hours between tests. Studies have shown that home-administered antigen tests have similar sensitivity to professionally administered antigen tests.

Can one individual test positive while other household members with the same or simil​ar symptoms continue to test negative with either PCR or rapid antigen tests?

Yes, people with different immune systems can have different symptoms for a specific level of detectable virus -- many symptoms are likely the "primed" immune system (from prior exposure or prior vaccination) responding quickly to virus that is not detected by the tests. ​

CDPH's CLIA-waived testing program has ended as of November 10, 2023. Schools can continue CLIA-waived testing by contracting with a testing vendor or by obtaining their own CLIA waiver through Laboratory Field Services (LFS).​


Originally published on July 13, 2022​​​​