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Negative COVID Test Required to Return to School

All DC Public School students must provide a negative COVID test before they return to school, Mayor Muriel Bowser reminded families Dec. 29.

Students will not be admitted into the building on Wednesday, Jan 5 without proof of a negative test, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said. “We may need to turn some students away, and we’re prepared to do that,” the Chancellor said at the press conference.

Rapid Antigen tests can be picked up between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3 and between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 4 at all DCPS schools, Ferebee said. Families can go to any school to collect a test; it does not have to be the school they attend.

Tests must be administered between 8:30a and 4 p.m. Tuesday, and results must be uploaded by 4 p.m. that day online at dcps.dc.gov/safereturn. Families are asked to enter student name, school, home address and contact information as well as the date of the test and test results. A pdf of results can be produced using the rapid-test app or families can uplaod a photo of the negative results. Technical assistance is available by calling 202-442-5885. Test results produced prior to Jan. 4 will not be accepted.

The requirement is specific to DCPS, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christine Grant said. However, charter school families should follow up with their school to understand how it is implementing the test to return program. “All charter schools are testing; all charter schools are not making this requirement,” Grant said.

Student testing is the largest data collection DC has ever done, Bowser said. More than 90,000 students attend DC public and public charter schools. While rapid tests will be available at schools on the first day of classes, submission of test results on Tuesday will help reduce first-day chaos.

If necessary, Ferebee said, families can bring proof of a negative test with them on the first day of school, as long as the test was taken in the previous 24 hours. Proof can inclue a pdf generated through the rapid antigen test app or a photograph of the negative test result.

If a child tests positive, they will need to stay at home. Ferebee said those families should contact their school to report their absence, report test results online and follow directions from DC Health.

A negative rapid test result.

Decision to Go Virtual on School-by-School Basis

Both Bowser and Ferebee emphasized that the District will work to preserve in-person learning. Decisions to transition a class, grade level or entire school to virtual learning will be made on a school-by-school basis, Ferebee said. Factors considered are if operations are possible and if education can be consistent, based on staff availability and how many students and staff are in quarantine.

District officials said that 650 DCPS staff have reported positive tests throughout November and December, 60 of them near the end as Omicron began to hit the region. Staff are also required to submit a negative test result before reporting to work Monday. They will be supplied with KN-95 masks, Ferebee said.

DC Health Deputy Director Patrick Ashley said that new CDC guidance will not apply to schools. Students who test positive will still need to quarantine for 10 days. Separate guidance is issued for certain populations, including schools and congregate homes, he said. Those directives have not yet been updated.

16,000 rapid test results have been reported so far to DC Health, Ashley said. 833 were positive. Ashley said people should report both positive and negative rapid test results online. “We want to know who is testing; we want to know which populations have COVID and which populations do not have COVID,” he said. “It just gives us another data point to understand what is going on in the population.”

The rapid tests provided by schools will be the same as those currently offered at eight District Public Libraries Monday to Saturday and at four DC Fire Stations Sundays. A live inventory and map is available online at: coronavirus.dc.gov/rapidantigen

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