School-Testing School Testing for COVID-19

School Testing for COVID-19

​​School Testing Overview​​​

In 2023-24, schools can continue to partner with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)  for testing resources and support. Please see Guidance for K-12 Schools and Child Care Settings to Mitigate the Spread of Communicable Disease, 2023 -2024 School Year and corresponding Q&A for more information:

CDPH School Testing Strategies

​​The ability for symptomatic individuals to test and identify the presence of COVID-19 quickly is critical. Having testing options available both in school and at-home for symptomatic students and staff can help them return to school faster, as well as limit any on-site transmission. To learn more about the recommended testing strategies please refer to CDPH Isolation and Quarantine Guidance and the COVID-19 Testing – What You Need to Know (PDF).

For more information on COVID-19 school related guidance and updates please visit the Schools Hub.

CDPH Test Types &​ C​onsiderations

The State of California has testing guidance which details the different types of testing, including differences between diagnostic testing, screening testing, post-exposure testing and pre-entry testing.

CDPH School Testing Programs

CDPH supports the following free testing modalities: At-Home Antigen Testing and At-School/Professional​​​ Testing.

At-Home (Over-the-Counter or OTC)​​​​​​​ Testing Program

CDPH provides free at-home tests to California K-12 schools.  At-home tests are self-tests that may be administered by the individual (or their parent/guardian) and cannot be administered by school staff due to federal (CLIA) regulations.

At-Home Test Expir​​​​ation D​ates

Please monitor your test inventory and regularly check expiration dates. The printed expiration date may not reflect the actual expiration date as the FDA has formally extended multiple OTC test brands. Please always check with the FDA for at-home (OTC) FDA expiration date extensions. CDPH recommends replacing tests that are older than the extended expiration dates (found on the FDA website), but if newer tests are not easily available, you may use an expired test as long as the internal control remains valid.

Community Rapid Testing Pro​gram​

The State of California and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) offer a community program for CLIA-waived testing using Abbott BinaxNow antigen tests. To use point-of-care tests on students in a school setting, regulations require the use of a CLIA waiver with a lab director and a physician's order.  The state CLIA-waiver is provided by the State after training and signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). It also requires the use of an online platform Primary.Health that allows staff and students to provide consent and provide test results in a HIPAA-compliant way. Learn more about the Community Rapid Testing Program or email

Educating Your School Community

Communicating with the school community around testing is important to the success of your testing program. Review our video of how children self-swab. Find more resources such as videos to share with parents, sample communication emails and a back-to-school agreement on our partner's website Safely Opening Schools. Share information with parents, staff and teachers on how to administer at-home tests.  Resources are available to help educate your school community on how to use and administer at-home tests in multiple languages.

Outbreak Re​​sponse

Local health departments and local education agencies (LEAs) are encouraged to keep rapidly accessible at-home antigen tests available to assist K-12 schools with campus outbreaks. Local health departments can also provide specific advice if guidance is needed.

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Originally published on August 4, 2022