DC to offer pre-K and kindergarten students weekly COVID tests, plans to implement test-to-stay

D.C. will make rapid antigen COVID tests available to pre-K and kindergarten students and staff on a weekly basis, schools Superintendent Christina Grant said Monday, a move intended to further curb the spread of the virus and keep schools open.

In addition to testing children when they return from breaks — which Grant defined as “at least a full week of school” — she said “we will now be making weekly rapid tests available for all staff and pre-K and K students on a weekly basis” during a Monday news conference.

The additional testing comes after parents and city lawmakers have said the city’s saliva-based asymptomatic testing program isn’t effective for young children, because they often struggle to produce an adequate sample.

The city required students and staff to submit proof of a negative coronavirus test result before returning to school last week after winter break and received promising results. Officials said more than 39,000 students and over 9,000 staff members submitted proof of test results.

“We will be making those tests available by Friday of each week. And they’ll be administered by families and staff before returning to school on Monday. This program will continue through this latest surge in cases,” Grant said.

She added that DCPS will issue guidance this week.

“We had heard feedback that our littles were still … not quite being able to leverage the saliva-based testing. And so we want to make those readily available on a weekly basis starting this Friday,” Grant said.

In addition, Grant said D.C. was moving forward with a plan to launch a test-to-stay program in the coming weeks.

“Our test-to-stay program will allow students who have identified as close contacts, who are not fully vaccinated, the ability to take a series of rapid COVID-19 tests during their isolation period. If these tests return negative, the student can remain in school for in-person learning,” Grant said.

She reiterated that it was critically important that people who can get the COVID-19 vaccine get their shot.

D.C. schools have been under scrutiny in recent weeks, because a spike in coronavirus cases has prompted classes and, in some cases, whole schools to temporarily transition to virtual learning. Parents, teachers and council members have been frustrated with delays in the notification process for a positive case and the lack of a metric that would prompt a transition to virtual learning.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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