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COVID-19 Testing in Schools Why It Matters and How to Advocate for It

School-based COVID-19 testing is an important step we can take to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep schools safely open.

NEA believes that all schools, especially in communities with substantial or high rates of COVID-19, should have in place screening testing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. And there are resources for it! Federal funding that we fought to get for our schools includes programs for free COVID-19 testing. This site is designed to help encourage screening testing at the school level, identify resources for screening testing, and encourage labor-management engagement on this crucial topic. 

Screening COVID-19 testing, sometimes called asymptomatic testing, involves testing everyone, or more likely, a randomly selected sample of individuals in a group. Screening testing is intended to identify infections in people with no known exposure who are asymptomatic or have not yet developed symptoms. NEA recognizes that screening testing programs in schools can be complex, including requiring adjustments to school routines, work duties, and schedules. 

Make sure to check out screening testing materials from the Rockefeller Foundation, including a very helpful start-up guide, in the section on additional resources below. CDC also recognizes the role test-to-stay strategies—an approach to testing that combines contact tracing and repeated testing of asymptomatic people--can play in keeping students who have been exposed to COVID-19 in school instead of quarantine. For more information, see the section below on steps to reduce the burden of quarantine. 

NEA Advocacy – Expanded Testing Support for Schools
On January 12, 2022, the White House announced expanded resources to support school-based testing, including 10 million more tests and deploying federal surge testing units for students, educators, and families. The White House fact sheet on the new initiative provides more detail. See below, “What resources are available to support testing in schools?” for information on the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) agreement and Operation Expanded Testing (ET) program through which the federal government makes school tests available. Schools are also encouraged to use existing American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to implement and expand testing programs. Note that these ARPA funds can also be used for personnel costs related to testing and other demands of COVID-19, as well as for paid sick leave for staff who must isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 infection or exposure.

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Demand COVID Testing

Want to demand COVID testing in your school? Download our easy to personalize sample letter to school officials.

CDC Resources

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Operation Expanded Testing

Operation ET is a federal resource available to all states and territories and can be tailored to each site’s testing needs.
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School Testing for COVID-19

Toolkit and resources to educate about school testing programs and encourage participation.
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Testing Strategies for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools

School testing gives communities, schools, and families added assurance that schools can open and remain open safely for all students.
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Interim Guidance for Pool Testing

The advantages of pooling include preserving testing reagents and resources, reducing the amount of time required to test large numbers of specimens and lowering the overall cost of testing.
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Funding Support for Screening Testing to Keep Schools Operating Safely

The objectives and goals of this funding are primarily focused on providing needed resources to implement screening testing programs.
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Open and Safe Schools

The Open and Safe Schools toolkit is designed to support state public health leaders and school leaders in leveraging federal government programs and resources to implement school COVID-19 testing programs as a part of their school reopening strategies.
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Get Vaccinated!

Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated – students, parents, and teachers and staff – should get vaccinated unless they are in the small minority of people for whom there is a medical reason not to.

NEA Updates

President Joe Biden and NEA President Becky Pringle stand next to each other in front of the 2021 NEA RA logo

NEA Strongly Supports Biden Administration’s New COVID-19 Vaccine-or-Test Requirements

The Biden Administration today announced new COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirements and enforcement of civil rights laws to protect our most vulnerable students.
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NEA announces support for educator vaccine and testing requirement

90 percent of NEA members report they are already vaccinated
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NEA President: Vaccine and Testing Requirements 'Appropriate, Responsible, and Necessary'

NEA announces support for mandatory vaccination or regular COVID testing for all U.S. public school educators.
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Join the Community of Educators Navigating COVID-19 Together

Join our Facebook group to connect with NEA members in your states and locals to seek and share important information about how COVID-19 is affecting your communities and what’s being done to support your students and one another.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.