Last updated on February 1, 2022.
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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is providing K-12 Colorado schools (public, private, charter, and tribal) with a FREE and voluntary COVID-19 screening testing program for the 2021-22 school year. The weekly rapid antigen testing will be available to all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status or presence of symptoms. The program will provide all necessary resources, including staff, for schools to implement the weekly screening testing.
This extra layer of COVID-19 prevention will allow Colorado schools to detect infections early and get ahead of outbreaks, including asymptomatic spread, helping students to safely continue in-person learning.
Key program details
- This program is voluntary and students younger than the age of 18 are required to have parental or guardian consent on file in order to participate.
- All students in participating schools with parental consent on file for this COVID-19 school testing program are eligible to receive monetary incentives regardless of their current vaccination status. While K-12 school staff are able to be tested, they are not eligible for individual incentives.
- A participating school can receive $2.50 in administrative support for each test that is conducted through this program. The school will receive this financial support retroactively and on a monthly basis. Colorado Department of Education (CDE) will be working closely with schools to deliver this financial support. Schools can enroll in the screening program and choose to opt out of this per test financial support.
- A participating student will receive $25 for the first COVID-19 test that is administered through this program. Students then receive $10 for every subsequent test administered each week (at a maximum of one incentive per week). Students will not receive this financial incentive if the school opts out of the incentive program.
- A participating student in a participating school will receive student incentives. The student will receive a gift card monthly and retroactively. For example, if your student is tested in September, they will receive a gift card loaded with their total incentives for September in October.
Schools will have two implementation options:
- Full Service: requires minimal assistance from school personnel.
- Direct Ship: allows schools to be more hands-on in the screening testing process.
- Enrollment for this program is now open to all schools and will be accepted on a rolling basis.
- Public and non-CSI charter schools require school district approval to enroll.
- Superintendents or authorized school district representatives can submit approval for enrollment of their district’s public and non-CSI charter schools via a school district authorization form. This signed form can be sent to: email@example.com.
Frequently asked questions
Testing program & implementation
- The CDPHE COVID-19 school screening testing program is designed to help schools take preventative measures against COVID-19 outbreaks. Weekly screening testing is most effective in early detection of COVID-19. Should your school district or school need additional testing outside of the program, PCR testing is available on-demand at free locations across Colorado. For more information, please visit Testing for COVID-19.
- If weekly testing does not meet the needs of your school, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with your desired cadence. These requests will only be considered for the Direct Ship model.
All necessary screening testing program components will be provided for with ELC Reopening Schools award funds at no cost to the school districts or schools. Additionally, school districts and schools will receive financial support for participating in this program. Schools can opt out of receiving incentives for the school testing program.
- Full Service: A state contractor will provide all services needed to implement screening testing in school including staffing, collecting/tracking parental consent, screening testing registration, supplies, sample collection, and reporting. This option requires minimal assistance from school personnel.
- Direct Ship: A state contractor will provide all screening testing supplies, use instructions, reporting portal for consent collection, and screening testing implementation by the school. The school administers the screening tests, reports results, and manages the program for the students and staff.
Rapid antigen tests can provide results within 15 minutes and are cost-effective. This screening testing method increases the likelihood of detecting an infection early.
This program is designed to continually test students and staff to more quickly identify a potential case of COVID-19. This program is at no cost to schools and provides all of the resources necessary to run a successful screening testing program.
Yes. This program is voluntary and students under the age of 18 are required to have parental or guardian consent on file in order to participate.
Enrollment for this program is now open to all schools and will be accepted on a rolling basis. There are three steps to enrolling in the program:
- Enrollment form: Schools or districts should complete this Google Form to express interest and provide enrollment information.
- Superintendent approval: Public and non-CSI charter schools require superintendent approval to enroll. Superintendents or authorized school district representatives can submit approval for enrollment of their district’s public and non-CSI charter schools via a school district authorization form. This signed form can be sent to: email@example.com.
- MOU: Each testing location will need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Docusign.
Once CDPHE has all three of these items, testing can be operationalized within two weeks.
Should CDPHE’s COVID-19 school screening testing program not meet your needs, there are several other options for you to consider in order to have testing available in your school district or school:
- CDPHE-sponsored community testing sites and many other providers and pharmacies offer free COVID-19 testing.
- BinaxNOW Professional point-of-care rapid antigen testing orders can be placed using this order form.
- Return to Learn rapid antigen test kits can be ordered using this order form.
- CovidCheck Colorado offers individual PCR testing.
- Federal options:
- A free federal testing plan offered by the U.S. Health and Human Services provides Pooled PCR COVID-19 testing through the Midwest Coordination Center. For more information, please visit www.testedandprotected.org or call (614) 424-3087.
- States may request additional point-of-care rapid antigen tests on a biweekly basis for school districts. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Get connected with other school testing providers via the Open & Safe Schools program’s website.
With current enrollment projections, we anticipate we will be able to offer this testing program for the duration of the 2021-2022 school year.
We will continue to monitor disease transmission and will provide resources as appropriate. The current federal funding for this program ends in July 2022.
This program is free. All testing supplies are free to the school. For those who opt-in to the full service program, vendors will provide staffing, coordinate testing, and report results.
Yes, schools are able to start enrolling in the program now. This page provides an overview of this enrollment process. Any questions about the program can be directed to this email address: email@example.com, which is monitored by the CDPHE school testing team.
There is not a minimum participation rate needed in order for a school to enroll. If there are fewer than 10 students enrolled in the program, CDPHE will work with the individual school to find the best solution.
The school will be responsible for notifying CDPHE 14 days in advance if they intend to change screening testing plans.
School-based serial testing is intended only for students who are able to and plan to attend school on the day of testing. Students should not come to school if they are feeling sick, even if they are just planning to get tested and return home, as this may lead to unintended exposures. In this case, schedule an appointment with the nearest community testing site, local public health agency, or visit your primary care provider. If the student tests negative, they can return to school following the Return to Learn tool and How Sick Is Too Sick?. However, if the student tests positive for the virus, they must isolate at home for the recommended ten days before returning to school.
The student incentives portion of this free COVID-19 school screening testing program is optional. All students under the age of 18 in participating schools that have parental consent on file for this program will receive an incentive unless their school has chosen not to receive financial support and offer student incentives. Students that are 18-years-old or older do not need parental consent on file, but are still able to choose to opt out of receiving the incentive.
All students under the age of 18 in participating schools that have parental consent on file for this free COVID-19 school screening testing program are eligible to receive an incentive, regardless of their current vaccination status. Students that are 18 years old or older do not need parental consent on file but will still need to register to be tested. Each incentive is linked to tests administered (i.e., a student must be tested to receive the incentive). Students are eligible to receive a maximum of one incentive per week.
A participating student will receive $25 for the first COVID-19 test that is administered to them through this program. A student can then receive $10 for every subsequent test that is administered each week (at a maximum of one incentive allowed per week).
Students will receive their incentive(s) monthly and retroactively, via a gift card. For example, if your student is tested in September, they will receive their gift card loaded with their total incentives for September in early October.
Your student will receive their gift card(s) via mail (U.S. Postal Service).
This information will be obtained through a parental or guardian consent form. This parental or guardian consent form will include a request for a mailing address for the student incentive gift card. Students who are 18-years-old or older will provide their mailing address when they register to be tested.
This screening testing program is federally funded and intended for K-12 students. While funding limitations do not allow us to provide incentives to teachers, we are providing free testing.
The easiest way to slow disease transmission is for all Coloradans ages 12 and up to get vaccinated. Testing also plays a critical role in ensuring students and staff can safely continue in-person learning.
Financial support to school districts and schools
The financial support portion of this free COVID-19 school screening testing program is optional. All individual school types have the ability to opt out of receiving the financial support of $2.50 per test for tests that were administered.
Participating school districts, Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI), private, and tribal schools will receive $2.50 for each COVID-19 test that is administered and reported through this program.
School districts or schools will receive financial support retroactively and on a monthly basis. For example, in October, a participating school district or school will receive the financial support of $2.50 per test for tests that were administered in September.
Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is working closely with school districts and schools to deliver this financial support.
This is a federally supported program through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The financial support payments are designed to reimburse schools for their administrative costs related to the testing in schools program including but not limited to staff or contractor time and communications resources. Additional details on allowable costs related to this program are outlined in the program guidance, please refer to pages four and five.
This program is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $173,450,305 with 0% percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC, HHS, or the U.S. Government.