The program for the 2021-22 school year will be run through the state’s testing vendor, CIC Health, which will be working directly with a point of contact within each district/school.
The tests themselves: self-administered nasal swabs – will be familiar to those who participated in teacher/staff testing during 2020-21.
Frequency: School surveillance testing will take place weekly (this may be adjusted to bi-weekly depending on resources and capacity).
Eligibility: All students and staff ages 5 and up, regardless of vaccination status, will be eligible for testing.
Testing will be opt-in for students and staff. In order for your program to be successful, we encourage you to proactively reach out to your community to collect and record parental consent for testing using a consent form. We will ask districts/schools to collect and record parental consent for testing using this consent form from CIC Health.
Registration: Unlike the school staff testing last year, there will be no registration necessary for this testing program. Test vials will come pre-marked with a barcode sticker. Once a student has completed their test, a staff member will use a provided barcode scanner to associate the test with the student’s name in a web-based testing system.
Costs: There is no cost to schools or districts for the tests. However, the district/school will need to provide staff time to coordinate and complete the testing. For the districts, these staffing costs are allowable cost under the ESSER funds.
The state will pay for the cost of shipping if schools or districts agree to test on a particular day of the week. The tests will then be picked up by a courier service, at no cost to the school or district.
Testing Coordinator: CIC Health and the state will ask you to designate a single point of contact to work directly with CIC Health on the testing program. This person does not need to have any health or medical qualifications. They will be asked to coordinate testing logistics for your district/school and communicate with your individual schools as needed. In addition, each district/school Testing Coordinator will also designate site coordinators that will need to complete training through CIC Health. These coordinators do not need to have any health or medical qualifications.
Steps to Participate in School Surveillance Testing Program
Identify which staff on your team will be the designated point of contact with CIC Health.
Complete the Fall Student COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Intent to Participate - SU/SDs and Independent Schools webform. CIC Health will respond with a welcome email within 2-3 days and provide access to their testing portal.
Review the Onboarding Guide in the Portal (also available for review in this Onboarding PDF).
Identify a start date for testing in the CIC Portal.
Input school information and designate School Coordinators.
Attend webinars and office hours (or watch them using the links below):
- Office Hours Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-2pm EST in September (no registration required): Zoom Link
Distribute the CIC Health COVID-19 Testing For Schools Consent Form to parents/guardians and staff.
Partner with CIC Health to obtain barcode scanners and access to testing system.
Partner with CIC Health to schedule testing dates.
AOE and VDH COVID-19 School Surveillance Testing Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
CIC Support Desk: email@example.com or (877) 380-3029
FAQs for School Staff
Eligibility and Participation
Who is eligible to test?
All students and staff ages 5 and up, regardless of vaccination status, will be eligible for testing.
Are students required to participate in the testing program?
No. Testing will be opt-in at the student level. We will ask districts/schools to collect and record parental consent for testing using a consent form from CIC Health.
Can students and staff who have received one or both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine participate in the surveillance testing program?
Yes. All students and staff over the age of five are eligible to participate in the surveillance testing program regardless of vaccination status and are encouraged to do so.
Testing Day Administration and Logistics
Who will administer the test?
These tests are self-administered, meaning that students and staff will be collecting their own sample by swabbing their nostrils. The sampling does not need to be observed by a health care professional, but schools may have an identified location and process for testing.
Does a medical professional need to administer the test for students aged 5-7?
No, an update has been made to the previous process and self-administered tests are now allowable for all students aged five and up. CIC Health has provided this video demonstrating self-swabbing by young children.
Should we really have young children self-swab?
Yes! In a study of over 16,000 samples at a MA school in spring ‘21, 2-8 grade students generate meaningfully fewer failed sample collections when self-swabbing vs. administered collection. Further, K-1 students swabbed 200 times, with zero failed collections. This compares with one failed collection in the previous 655 samples that had been collected on the same group in an administered basis. Overall this suggests there are simply very low failure rates in this age-group in general and, importantly, no increase in collection issues when kindergarteners and 1st graders self-collect samples.
Approximately how long will the entire process take for each test?
The entire process takes under 1 minute to complete. Using two to three test administrators to support collection observation and scanning can allow a school to get through roughly 100 students in an hour. For your first round of testing, you may want to allow for a bit more time for each person as you acclimate to the process.
I don’t think our school/district can provide enough staff for weekly testing. Is there help available?
The state is able to offer some support for onsite staffing and district-level logistics and administrative help. Please complete this COVID Surveillance Testing Resource Needs Survey. Please note: this is not a resource request. This survey is intended to provide data so that the state can deploy its limited resources to best support COVID-19 school surveillance testing in an equitable manner.
Is the school responsible for reporting results to parents/guardians?
No, the results are sent from the testing software to the parents/guardians or adult testers at the same time that they are sent to the District Coordinator and the VDH. If the District Coordinator approves a School Coordinator for access to results, that School Coordinator will also receive a copy at the same time. The number of positive tests will be reported in the Health Department's statewide and county-by-county daily case totals.
What do the test results “Inconclusive” and “Test Not Processed” mean? Do staff or students need to get another test or quarantine?
A result of “Test Not Processed” occurs when a sample cannot be analyzed. Reasons may include a damaged label, or samples that include too much blood or mucus. This result does not mean that the test is positive and the individual does not need to take any additional precautions beyond the health guidance already in place, but we do encourage testers to seek out a local test site to get retested.
A result of “Inconclusive” occurs when a sample was able to be analyzed, but there was an insufficient amount of genetic material for a clear result. Inconclusive results can sometimes occur at the beginning or end of an individual’s illness, when the genetic load is too low for detection. However, recipients of an “Inconclusive” result who are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine or take additional precautions beyond the recommendations in the health guidance.
Onboarding and Technical Support
Is the onboarding and trainings really going to take 10 hours to complete?
This timeframe can be significantly reduced by having key information ready ahead of time (School Coordinators identified, staff and student counts for each school, start date determined) and by having someone with tech experience available to help troubleshoot, particularly when standing up the Binx database system.
When can we begin our testing program?
Please ensure you have completed the required fields in the client portal, which includes indicating your preferred start date. If you have already filled this in, you should be hearing from CIC Health soon. In the meantime, you may continue to work through the training materials in the portal.
Why can’t I see my district information on the School and Consent Database?
The trainings mention a paper tracking form. Do we need to complete a paper tracker during testing?
No, the paper tracker is optional but allows the lab to process tests that do not register properly in the software due to human error. This affects 0.06% of samples, which will be unable to return a result without the tacker. If desired, you may use the scanner to enter this data into a spreadsheet to safe time.
Resources and Quick Links
Onboarding Guide (PDF)
(translated versions to be posted soon)