Students returning to Oregon’s classrooms this fall may have ready access to COVID-19 testing, but schools wishing to participate must register for the programs now for the 2021-22 school year. This applies even if they participated last school year.
Robust testing programs offered through the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), are among numerous interventions aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in schools, including universal use of face coverings, physical distancing and ventilation.
Opt-in programs include:
- Diagnostic testing: For students or staff with symptoms of COVID-19 or an exposure to COVID-19, the program uses Abbott BinaxNOW rapid testing kits. This essential access to free testing can help diagnose COVID-19 infection early and, when recommended by the local public health authority, may shorten the duration of quarantine for exposed students.
- Weekly screening testing for unvaccinated K-12 staff: Staff may opt in to this program. These tests are self-collected at home and sent to a regional laboratory for processing. Testing is confidential and enrollment forms can be found here.
- Weekly screening testing of unvaccinated students[i]: Schools must opt in to the program. Then, households may opt in through their schools for testing performed in collaboration with a regional laboratory partner. Program details vary by region and school.
The testing program is a component of the revised “Ready Schools Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 2021-22 School Year”, which was released in June 2021.
Regular and reliable screening testing can identify COVID-19 infections early and help slow transmission in K-12 settings.
“Screening offers an additional layer of protection to help keep Oregon’s students learning in-person,” said Dr. Melissa Sutton, medical director of Respiratory Viral Pathogens and a senior health advisor at OHA. “Screening can identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases early —and help stop transmission within the school setting.”
“These programs offer yet another opportunity for school communities to work together to ensure our students return to in-person learning with as many health and safety protections as possible,” said ODE Director Colt Gill.
The free diagnostic testing program for students and staff launched in January 2021, and more than 90% of Oregon’s K-12 schools registered last school year. Schools must re-register to continue participating during the 2021-22 school year. The program is for students and staff who develop symptoms at school or are exposed to the virus in a school setting.
The at-home, mail-in K-12 staff screening testing program was launched in April 2021. However, the K-12 student screening testing program is launching this fall in collaboration with regional laboratories across Oregon. Both K-12 screening testing programs will be offered weekly and will target unvaccinated individuals, although vaccination status will not be verified.
For more details on testing and testing options for students, teachers and staff, please visit here. You may also go to the Oregon’s COVID-19 Testing in K-12 schools web page.