COVID-19 school screening testing program

 
Last updated on October 24, 2022.

Available languages: Español 

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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, voluntary, and statewide COVID-19 screening testing program for the 2022-2023 school year. The weekly rapid antigen testing is available to all students, staff, and school volunteers, regardless of vaccination status. The program will provide all necessary resources, including staff, for schools to implement the weekly screening testing.

Everyone aged 6 months and older can now get the COVID-19 vaccine, and we hope all Coloradans will get vaccinated with all recommended doses.

In addition to the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, ongoing COVID-19 testing will help Colorado schools detect infections early and get ahead of outbreaks, so that students can safely continue in-person learning.

 

Key program details

Student participation:

  • This program is voluntary, and students younger than the age of 18 are required to have parental or guardian consent on file to participate.
  • 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. The 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.
  • All students with parental or guardian consent on file in participating schools are eligible to receive monetary incentives, regardless of their current vaccination status, unless their school opts out of the incentives program. Students who opt-in to the incentives program will receive $25 for the first COVID-19 test administered and $10 for every subsequent test administered each week, with a maximum of one incentive per week. Students will receive incentives as gift cards, monthly and retroactively. While K-12 school staff are able to be tested, they are not eligible for individual incentives.

Schools have two implementation options:

  • Full Service: Requires minimal assistance from school personnel and no on-site storage is required from schools. A state-contracted vendor implements and manages the testing program.
  • Direct Ship: Allows schools to be more hands-on in the screening testing process, as the school implements and manages the program with provided supplies and reports results to the state through an online portal.

Program enrollment:

  • 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 emailed to: cdphe_schooltesting@state.co.us.

Read the program overview   Enroll in the screening program

Student incentives opt out form for parents

Practical guide for operationalizing CDC’s school guidance

 

Frequently asked questions

Testing program & implementation
  • The CDPHE COVID-19 school screening testing program is designed to help schools stay ahead of COVID-19 outbreaks. In addition to vaccination, weekly screening testing helps reduce disruptions caused by COVID-19 and plays a critical role in safely continuing in-person learning. 

Yes. If weekly testing does not meet the needs of your school, email cdphe_schooltesting@state.co.us with your desired cadence. These requests will only be considered for the Direct Ship model.

Should your school district or school need additional testing outside of the program, you can also request free on-demand tests as part of the new Test to Know program.

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 financial support 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, and no onsite storage is required from schools.
  • 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. The school will be responsible for all PPE and cleaning supplies.

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 and help schools mitigate outbreaks. Vaccinations are a tremendous line of defense against COVID-19. Ongoing testing also plays a critical role in facilitating uninterrupted in-person learning. This program is a free resource to schools and provides all of the supplies 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:

  1. Enrollment form: Schools or districts should complete this Google form to express interest and provide enrollment information.

  2. 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 emailed to: cdphe_schooltesting@state.co.us

  3. 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.

Yes. You will need to fill out the 2022-2023 enrollment form, school district authorization form (if applicable), and Memorandum of Understanding to begin your enrollment or re-enrollment in the school screening testing program. 

Should CDPHE’s COVID-19 school screening testing program not meet your needs, other options exist 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 or low-cost COVID-19 testing.

  • CDPHE is also offering a streamlined on-demand testing program, Test to Know, to help keep students learning in school. This program can be operated independently of, or as a complement to, the in-school screening testing program. Both point of care and over-the-counter tests are available through the Test to Know program. 

  • 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, visit www.testedandprotected.org or call 614-424-3087.

    • Get connected with other school testing providers via the Open & Safe Schools program’s website.

The screening testing program will be available to all K-12 Colorado schools (public, private, charter, and tribal) for the entirety of the 2022-2023 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 2023.

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. Financial support to participating school districts and schools will equate to $2.50 per COVID-19 test to cover any associated school costs, paid retroactively. CDPHE is working closely with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to distribute these funds.

Schools can change the testing options with a 14-day written notification to CDPHE. This notification can be emailed to: cdphe_schooltesting@state.co.us.

Yes, schools can enroll in the program now. This page provides an overview of this enrollment process, which schools must complete regardless of their participation the previous school year. Any questions about the program can be directed to this email address: cdphe_schooltesting@state.co.us, 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.

Frequent, ongoing school-based testing is intended only for students who are able 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 planning to get tested and return home, as this may lead to unintended exposures. In this case, ask your school about the Test to Know program, which provides free, at-home tests to Colorado students at no cost to families. Families can also visit a free community testing site or their health care provider for testing. 
 
The easiest way to slow disease transmission is for all Coloradans aged 6 months and older  to get vaccinated. Testing also plays a critical role in ensuring students and staff can safely continue in-person learning.

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Student incentives
 

Yes. 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 who have parental or guardian consent on file for this program will receive an incentive unless their school chooses not to receive financial support and offer student incentives. Students who are 18 years or older do not need consent on file and may opt out of receiving the incentive.

All students under the age of 18 in participating schools who have parental or guardian 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 who are 18 years or older do not need consent on file, but still need to register to be tested. Students must be tested to receive the incentive and can receive one incentive per week. If a school was enrolled in the program prior to approval of incentives, any students who qualify for incentives will receive them retroactively. 

A participating student will receive $25 for the first COVID-19 test administered through this program, and $10 for every subsequent test that is administered each week (at a maximum of one incentive per week). 

Students will receive their incentive(s) monthly and retroactively, via a gift card. For example, if a student is tested in October, they will receive their gift card loaded with their total incentives for October in November.

Your student will receive their gift card(s) via mail (U.S. Postal Service). 
 

Parents and guardians may provide a student’s mailing address through the program consent form. Students who are 18 years or older may provide their mailing addresses 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, free testing is available to teachers, staff and volunteers. 

The most effective way to slow disease transmission is for all Coloradans aged 6 months and older to get vaccinated. Testing also plays a critical role in ensuring students and staff can safely continue in-person learning.
 

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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 screening program.

School districts or schools will receive financial support retroactively during the course of the school year.

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.

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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% 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.