COVID-19 Testing in K-12 Schools and Child Care - Minnesota Dept. of Health

COVID-19 Testing in K-12 Schools and Child Care

Information on this page will help school districts, schools, and child care programs learn about COVID-19 testing guidance, the value of testing, and the variety of testing options made available by the State of Minnesota.

In-person education is critical to a child's well-being and academic success, and access to child care is imperative for working families. Testing in child care settings and K-12 schools remains a powerful tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19 as part of a broader COVID-19 mitigation strategy.

As outlined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for COVID-19 prevention in Schools, Child Care, and Colleges, testing, vaccination, and other prevention strategies should be used to help keep children, students, educators, child care providers, and staff healthy. The state is working to ensure that children, students, child care providers, and staff have the resources they need to access COVID-19 testing.

On this page:
School and child care testing recommendations and options
    Testing recommendations
    Testing options
    Why we test
School and child care testing program
    Screening testing versus symptomatic testing
    Available testing resources
    Determining which test to use and when
Reporting
Privacy, confidentiality, and legal considerations
Grants
    For schools
    For child care
Technical assistance on COVID-19 testing
Additional guidance and resources

School and child care testing recommendations and options

Why we test

  • Testing regularly can help identify new cases and their contacts early, which can prevent spread in the classroom, the child care program, and the community.
  • Preventing COVID-19 spread helps keep children, students, and staff healthy and in their classrooms and programs.
  • Testing in schools and child care settings can help to ensure convenient and equitable access to testing.
  • Testing supports schools and child care providers in providing healthy learning environments.

Testing recommendations

The current test options available from the state can be used only on people 2 years of age and older. Children under the age of 2 should get tested by a medical provider.

More information can be found at:

Testing options

There are many ways to get tested for COVID-19. The following options are available at no cost to Minnesota residents.

  • The state is providing free testing options for schools and child care settings to offer to children, students, and staff.
    • All schools and child care settings are strongly encouraged to offer testing options to children, students, and staff and to share information with parents/guardians and staff, including how consent for testing will be obtained. The current test options available from the state can be used only on people 2 years of age and older. Children under the age of 2 should get tested by a medical provider.
  • COVID-19 Community Testing Sites across Minnesota offer free tests.
  • People and families may go to Find Testing Locations to find testing offered at local pharmacies and health care facilities.
  • People may also use the free COVID-19 Vault Saliva Testing at Home program to have a test mailed to them.
  • All Americans can order free, antigen at-home tests from the federal government through the U.S. postal service. Each household can make one order which includes four tests. Visit covidtests.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.

School and child care testing program

The State of Minnesota has improved its statewide testing program for schools and child care settings. While the state will make a variety of testing options available, it is up to local districts, schools, and child care providers to decide which tests best fit the needs of a child and the student populations and communities.

Goals of the testing program are to:

  • Keep Minnesota's students and children in their classrooms and child care settings.
  • Decrease COVID-19 spread in the school, child care settings, and in the community.
  • Increase access to testing for all.
  • Provide schools and child care providers with local control to institute a testing program that meets the needs of their children, students, and families.

To meet these goals, the state has expanded testing options available to schools and child care settings, and is continuing its work to remove barriers and increase flexibility, so children, students, school staff, and child care providers have access to testing.

Tests provided through the child care and K-12 schools testing program are intended for use by staff, students, or children within child care settings or schools, depending on the test type. This includes at-home tests provided by a K-12 school or child care program. Schools and child care settings should not be conducting or providing state-funded COVID-19 tests for anyone that is not a staff member, contracted employee, student, or child within child care.

Screening testing versus symptomatic testing

School districts, charter schools, tribal schools, nonpublic schools, and child care programs can determine what, if any, kind of testing program they want to implement. These programs can include screening testing, symptomatic testing, or both.

Screening testing

Screening testing provides regular testing for unvaccinated children, students, and staff without symptoms or known COVID-19 exposures. Screening testing is a tool to reduce the spread of the virus from people who are asymptomatic.

CDC and MDH recommend screening testing for unvaccinated children, students and staff. The frequency of testing depends on community transmission levels and participation in low-risk and high-risk sports and activities. Visit CDC: Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools or CDC: COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs for more information on recommendations and to access existing testing toolkits and playbooks to inform testing program design.

Symptomatic testing

Isolation and testing of symptomatic people can minimize the spread of COVID-19 in schools and child care settings. If a child, student, or staff member in a school or child care program tests positive for COVID-19, staff should use the COVID-19 Case Report Form for K-12 Schools, Childcares, and Youth Programming (Camps, Sports, Extracurricular Activities) to report the positive test result.

For more information on how to respond to confirmed cases of COVID-19 and to notify your school or child care community, review Best Practices for Handling a Confirmed Case of COVID-19 (PDF).

Testing contacts of cases (people) with recent exposure to a confirmed case

People who have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 (contacts) are at increased risk for COVID-19 and can spread the virus. Refer to Best Practices for Handling a Confirmed Case of COVID-19 (PDF).

Testing of close contacts (even if they do not have symptoms) is an important strategy for limiting spread in schools and child care settings. More information on what to do and when to test close contacts is available at Close Contacts and Quarantine: COVID-19.

Available testing resources

Minnesota schools and child care programs have multiple testing options. In-depth guidance on implementation, including how to order and administer each test, is available in the documents linked below. Tests include molecular (PCR) and antigen tests. Learn more about the various types of COVID-19 tests and recommended uses.

For all test options listed below, schools and child care providers must follow the applicable requirements in the manufacturer instructions and Federal Drug Administration (FDA) authorization. Note that each testing option will have varying availability due to supply fluctuations.

Available to schools and child care providers:

  • Midwest Coordination Center Pool Testing Information (PDF)
    • Available for schools and child care providers.
    • Tests available for children and adults ages 3 and older.
    • Pooled PCR nasal swab or saliva test that can be used as a screening tool to identity asymptomatic cases.
    • Tests, supplies, and shipping are funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
    • Tests are self-administered under supervision of trained staff.
    • Schools and child care programs will need to request tests from Midwest Coordination Center at least two weeks in advance.

  • Cue Testing Information (PDF)
    • Available for schools and child care providers.
    • Tests available for children and adults ages 2 and older.
    • Individual rapid molecular nasal swab test that schools and child care settings may use on site for symptomatic children, students, or staff. Tests can also be used for asymptomatic children, students, or staff (e.g., screening testing).
    • Cue tests must be administered by a trained professional. A Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) Certificate of Waiver is required when a school or child care setting chooses to administer this test or to assist with interpreting results, even when the test is designated for over-the-counter use. Schools and child care providers that do not have a CLIA waiver must obtain one as soon as possible. Effective Dec. 16, 2021, schools and child care programs may no longer order or perform Cue tests without a CLIA waiver.
    • To obtain a CLIA Certificate of Waiver, schools and child care providers may either apply for their own or use the MDH-provided statewide CLIA waiver. Once a CLIA waiver is approved, schools and child care providers may order Cue tests at any time. Please review the information sheet above for additional details about MDH Statewide Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) Certificate of Waiver for COVID-19 Testing.
    • Schools and child care settings should have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and must follow any applicable federal and state law. Refer to OSHA: Emergency Temporary Standard, COVID-19 Healthcare ETS, CDC: Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic, and the test manufacturer's instructions for more information.

  • BD Veritor At-Home COVID-19 Test Information (PDF)
    • Available for schools and child care providers.
    • Tests available for children and adults ages 2 and older.
    • Individual rapid antigen test kits, containing two tests per package. Each test kit should be used by one person; the tests should not be separated. The two tests are taken in a series over time. Follow manufacturer instructions on when to take each test.
    • This test is for symptomatic students and staff and may be administered only at home using an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or Google Pixel smartphone.
    • Children, students, and staff can test if they are symptomatic to avoid potential spread in their school or child care setting.

Available to schools ONLY:

  • Vault Testing Information (PDF)
    • Schools can continue to use tests on hand. The state of Minnesota is not accepting new orders from child care providers or schools for Vault test kits at this time.
    • Individual PCR saliva test.
    • Tests may be sent home with children, students, or staff.
    • Test kits are self-administered over Zoom.
    • Schools that have Vault saliva tests on site do not need to mail them back to the State of Minnesota. Tests ordered during the 2020-21 school year can be used through July 31, 2022.

  • BinaxNOW OTC At-Home Testing Information (PDF)
    • Available only for schools.
    • Tests available for students ages 2 and older.
    • Individual rapid antigen test kits containing two tests will be available to send home with students, as schools request tests.
    • This test is for symptomatic students only and may be administered only at home.
    • Students may test if they are symptomatic and avoid potential spread in their school.
    • The state intends to provide enough tests for every student. However, supply volume from the test vendor will ultimately determine how many tests the state can distribute to schools.

  • BinaxNOW Professional Testing Information (PDF)
    • Available only for schools.
    • Tests available for students and staff ages 2 and older.
    • Rapid antigen test intended for students and staff who develop symptoms while at school and want testing before going home.
    • The test can also be used for screening when it is administered according to manufacturer instructions. Tests may be used for frequent screening testing.
    • This test requires an ordering health care provider.
    • This test requires a CLIA Certificate of Waiver. Please review the information sheet above for additional CLIA waiver details and to find an ordering provider.
    • Schools will need to apply for a CLIA Certificate of Waiver or use the MDH-provided statewide CLIA Certificate of Waiver. Once a CLIA waiver is approved, schools may order BinaxNOW professional tests at any time.
    • Schools should have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and must follow any applicable federal and state law. Refer to OSHA: Emergency Temporary Standard, COVID-19 Healthcare ETS, CDC: Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic, and the test manufacturer's instructions for more information.

Determining which test to use and when

Testing options available to Minnesota schools and child care programs have increased significantly from the 2020-2021 school year. The variety of tests provides K-12 schools, child care programs, and early learning programs with the ability to design a testing program to help ensure students remain in the classroom and children remain in child care. The grids below lay out each option and offer guidance about when a school or child care setting should choose to use a specific test.

School testing options

Scenario Midwest Coordination Center Pool Test
(nasal swab or saliva)
Vault Test
(saliva)
Cue Test
(nasal swab)
BinaxNOW professional Antigen Test
(nasal swab)
BD Veritor At-Home Antigen Test or BinaxNOW Over-the-Counter (OTC) Antigen Test
(nasal swab)
Screening test (good for general screening of the school population) Yes Yes Yes Yes, but frequent testing and/or confirmatory testing may be needed for negative results (e.g., Vault or Cue).* Yes (with same limitations as BinaxNOW professional). Tests work better when someone has symptoms. Given limited supply available through the Minnesota testing program, schools are encouraged to consider these tests for symptomatic students, though they can be used for people who don't have symptoms.
Rapid test for schools (good to use for quick results, in 20 minutes or less) No No Yes Yes, especially in symptomatic people. Negative tests in people with symptoms should be confirmed by a molecular test.* Yes, especially in people with symptoms. May need follow-up test when there is a negative test result.*
Diagnostic test for schools (good to use when a person has symptoms) No Yes Yes Yes. Negative tests in people with symptoms should be confirmed by a molecular test.* Yes. Negative tests in people with symptoms should be confirmed by a molecular test.*
Uses for the test Test everyone on a regular basis. Test everyone on a regular basis.

Sports/ extracurricular testing with lead time.

Testing symptomatic children, students, and staff of those who are close contacts of cases.
Sports/ extracurricular testing.

Testing symptomatic children, students, and staff.
Testing symptomatic students and staff or those who are close contacts of cases.

If used for screening, best when there is frequent testing (2 times/week).
Have tests at home for families to test their children when symptoms are present.

Child care testing options

Scenario Midwest Coordination Center Pool Test
(nasal swab or saliva)
Cue Test
(nasal swab)
BD Veritor At-Home Antigen Test
(nasal swab)
Screening test (good for general screening of the child care population) Yes Yes

Yes, but frequent testing and/or confirmatory testing may be needed for negative results (e.g., Vault or Cue).*

Tests work better when someone has symptoms. Given limited supply available through the Minnesota testing program, child care providers are encouraged to consider these tests for symptomatic children 2 or older, though they can be used for people who don't have symptoms.

Rapid test for child care (good to use for quick results, in 20 minutes or less) No Yes Yes, especially in people with symptoms. May need follow-up test when there is a negative test result.*
Diagnostic test for child care (good to use when a person has symptoms) No Yes Yes. Negative tests in people with symptoms should be confirmed by a molecular test.*
Uses for the test Test everyone who is eligible on a regular basis. Testing symptomatic children 2 and older, students, and staff. Have tests at home for families to test their children when symptoms are present.

* Refer to CDC: Interim Guidance for Antigen Testing for SARS-CoV-2

Reporting

Reporting helps MDH and CDC monitor COVID-19 case levels across the state and country. Local case-level data can help schools and child care providers take more effective actions to slow the spread of virus in their communities.

Information regarding determining if schools and child care settings need to report and how to report for various tests can be found using the Updated K-12 School and Child Care COVID-19 Reporting Guidance (PDF).

To determine how schools and child care providers need to report, consider the following:

  • Tested outside of school or child care setting (home, clinic, pharmacy, community testing site):
  • Tested at the school or child care setting:
    • If test was administered and processed at the school or child care setting (e.g., BinaxNOW professional, Cue), use RePortal to report all positive results within 24 hours.
    • If test was administered at school or child care setting and sent to an external lab (e.g., Vault), report positives via REDCap. Do not report negative results.

Schools and child care providers responsible for reporting through the MDH RePortal system will need to register in advance at Welcome to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) RePortal self-registration site. Once a school or child care provider is registered and account access is approved, administrators must upload a spreadsheet each day with COVID-19 testing information. A new spreadsheet must be used each day testing is conducted and, if using more than one type of test, for each test type.

MDH has Excel spreadsheet templates available for schools and child care settings to use with Cue tests, and templates for schools to use with BinaxNOW Professional tests.

When completing the spreadsheet, the school or child care provider is considered the lab and the ordering provider. The child/student/employee is the patient.

Once the spreadsheet is complete, administrators may save and upload it to the MDH RePortal. Please ensure submission is complete after uploading.

Additional information about RePortal can be found at Uploading Lab Results to MDH RePortal. Questions about the RePortal or COVID-19 test reporting may be emailed to Health.COVID-19.CaseIntake.Team@state.mn.us.

Privacy, confidentiality, and legal considerations

  • Schools and child care providers are strongly encouraged to consult with their legal counsel. The State of Minnesota cannot provide legal advice to schools or districts and this document should not be relied on as legal advice.
  • Schools and child care providers should ensure that child, student, and staff privacy is protected, and should prohibit staff and others from accessing test information if they do not need the information to perform their duties.
  • Schools and child care providers may be subject to federal and state laws that govern student and health care data. Different schools and child care providers may have different federal and state obligations. Schools and child care providers should make sure they understand and follow these requirements, and give any disclosures or warnings required by law before collecting student or child information.
  • Depending on the test option, schools and child care providers are responsible for managing informed consent and obtaining any necessary records releases. Schools and child care providers should encourage those who are unable to give informed consent to work with a parent or guardian.
  • Some testing options require informed consent to be given directly to an outside laboratory or provider. Schools and child care providers may want to consider whether and how to verify that the person being tested has given informed consent before administering the test.
  • The State of Minnesota makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, regarding COVID-19 tests provided to schools and child care providers, including the use, condition, and effectiveness of tests, or the accuracy of test results. The persons ordering and taking a test accept the test "as-is," and assume all risks associated with the test. The State of Minnesota assumes no responsibility for actual, consequential, incidental, special, or exemplary damages resulting from, caused by, or associated with any test.

Technical assistance on COVID-19 testing

MDH and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) are working to provide resources and supports to ensure that schools and child care providers can successfully run local testing programs. Webinars on school COVID-19 testing programs will be available on MDE: Health Resources for Schools. Regular trainings will be scheduled and communicated to school districts, charter schools, nonpublic schools, tribal schools, and child care providers. Additionally, resources are included in the information sheets for each testing option to help guide implementation. Questions can be emailed to COVIDtesting.MDE@state.mn.us.

Grants

For schools

Every school district, charter school, tribal school, and nonpublic school was eligible at the start of the 2021-22 school year for a grant through MDE to support COVID-19 testing. Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) Reopening Schools Award grant money may be used to fund staff to support, administer, or execute testing, or to purchase tests through a vendor. Information and updates about the grant process will be regularly communicated to school districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic schools.

Applications are no longer being accepted for ELC funding. School districts and schools that have received ELC funding are reported at MDE: Local COVID-19 Response Data.

The Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) Reopening Schools Award is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $169,862,951, with 100% funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.

For child care

Minnesota Department of Human Services: Child Care Stabilization Grants has more information on funding resources for child care programs related to COVID-19.

Additional guidance and resources

Updated Monday, 04-Apr-2022 15:33:25 CDT