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Seattle Public Schools COVID Testing

Summary: Our goals are to keep our school communities healthy and safe and ensure uninterrupted in-person learning.

Seattle Public Schools COVID Testing

If You Test Positive for COVID-19

Stay home for a minimum of 5 days and until your symptoms have significantly improved.   

Notify your school .

Department of Health Symptom Flow Chart

The DOH flowchart ‘What to do if a Person is Symptomatic’ is available in several languages.

About COVID Testing

Students and staff can take a COVID test:

  • At home
  • At their school

At Home Testing: Seattle Public Schools is now accepting over the counter COVID-19 tests for students and staff. Families can order FREE at-home tests through the federal government and the State of Washington. iHealth Home Rapid Antigen Tests are also available at schools for home use. Schools may send these tests home with students before a break or an event like prom. IHealth instruction video.

Learn how to share test results with a school

At School Testing:  Rapid antigen testing is available at each school, and results are available usually within 15 minutes with parent/guardian consent. PCR testing is available at each school for students and staff who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and those results can take 24-72 hours based on demand. When needed, schools will also have our testing partner, CIC Health conduct on-demand screening testing for groups of students for students participating in such as athletics or performing arts and when outbreaks are suspected.

Due to the increased availability of home rapid antigen tests and low usage, SPS is closing our regional testing sites beginning on March 31. We are ready to redeploy support again if needed. 

SPS COVID Testing FAQ

What are the Prom Protocols?

High schools are now able to host in-person proms. Schools will have free at-home COVID tests available for students attending prom. Each attendee can receive one test box which includes two tests.

Students are strongly encouraged to take a COVID test both before prom and before returning to school. Let’s make this a healthy and safe prom season.

Who is encouraged to test? 

  • Testing is free and insurance is not required.  You may be asked to provide insurance by the vendor.
  • All SPS students are encouraged to test if the have COVID-like symptoms or if there has been potential exposure
  • Testing is voluntary. 

If testing is free, why am I being asked for insurance?

If a student’s family has insurance, Curative, one of SPS’ testing providers, will attempt to charge their insurance or HRSA. Both testing providers, Curative and CIC Health, also have an agreement with the Washington State Department of Health to cover any tests that are not covered by insurance or HRSA. Some families may receive an Explanation of Benefits that looks like a bill, but rest-assured that there will never be a cost to the family nor the school district.

How soon can students return to school after testing positive? 

Following Washington Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County’s guidance for people who test positive for COVID-19, students and staff can return to school after isolating for five full days if they have no symptoms or if their symptoms have subsided and have had no fever for the last 24 hours without medication.

Students and staff are required to wear a well-fitted mask around others on days 6-10 OR test negative with an antigen test to return without a mask.

If they cannot wear a mask and do not test negative after day five, they must stay home though days 6-10.

Will SPS implement a test-to-stay program? 

Test-to-stay was a strategy to keep unvaccinated students who are not showing symptoms in school after they had been identified as a close contact. SPS was implementing a Test to Stay strategy when the State Department of Health changed the requirement so that students and staff who are exposed to COVID-19 do not need to quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.

SPS has pivoted our Test to Stay strategy to On-Demand Testing. As some COVID mitigation measures are being lifted or becoming optional, testing is now an even more important tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain in-person learning in our schools. On-demand testing will be used when there is a need to test multiple students or staff. Testing will be used for:

  • Students or staff with COVID-like symptoms
  • Individuals who are at high risk for significant illness from COVID
  • Individuals who are exposed to COVID in their household
  • During clusters and potential outbreaks to maintain in-person instruction
  • Screen testing for Athletics and Performing Arts students participating in indoor, high-aerosol generating activities

Will testing be used to limit outbreaks? Will testing be required?

The district’s goal is to preserve in-person learning while maintaining a safe learning environment. The district’s Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) has been revised to include how schools will be supported if the positive COVID case rates in a classroom or school reach the Department of Health definition of a cluster or outbreak (page 16).

If Coordinated School Health, in consultation with Public Health, suspects or confirms an outbreak at an elementary school, the district will require testing and masking for the identified core group of students (e.g., 2nd grade class).

  • Testing will be required twice in a 5-day period for all students in the exposed classroom. If consent is not provided, the student will need to quarantine for 5 full calendar days.
  • Universal, required masking will resume for the identified core group (e.g., 2nd grade class) for 5 calendar days or the testing cycle. Once the testing cycle is complete, masking will be  required for another 5 full calendar days. 
  • If there are multiple clusters or outbreaks across classrooms, the district will recommend masking for all students in the school for 10 days.
  • Additional mitigations will be considered including increased physical distancing in consultation with Coordinated School Health.

If required core group testing shows a significant increase in positive cases, Coordinated School Health/Operations may consider a school-wide mask requirement or shifting the classroom(s) to 100% remote model to stop transmission.

For secondary schools, if an outbreak is suspected or confirmed by Coordinated School Health in consultation with Public Health, the following actions will take place:

  • Required universal masking for all secondary students for 10 calendar days.
  • Possible required testing of students in impacted classrooms (e.g., 9th grade ELA class, indoor sports team).
    • Testing will be required twice in a 5-day period for all students in the exposed classroom.
    • If consent is not provided, the student will need to quarantine for 5 full calendar days.
    • Possible additional mitigations including physical distancing.

If required core group testing shows a significant increase in positive cases, Coordinated School Health/Operations may consider shifting the school to 100% remote model to stop transmission.

Has SPS considered a pooled testing protocol? 

Pooled testing screens a group of people together, like a classroom, on a regular basis to proactively identify positive cases. If there is a positive result, then that group is tested on an individual basis. Pooled testing has been used effectively to screen for the Delta variant. It is less effective with the Omicron variant, given how quickly transmission occurs. 

Home tests are now widely available for families, staff, and students and we encourage testing at home when possible. In addition, SPS offers rapid antigen testing and diagnostic testing in all schools.

SPS has been and continues to provide weekly screening testing for indoor high impact athletics and some performing arts students as recommended by DOH. We are also offering on-demand testing to address suspected or confirmed outbreaks in classrooms and schools. Weekly screen testing for all 50,000 students requires more test resources and personnel to administer than we currently or will have available in the future. Pool testing, a form of screen testing has been explored by SPS but is not an effective tool for the Omicron variant or subvariant given the rate of transmission. 

SPS will continue to adjust our testing strategy to align with current DOH guidance and variants of concern. We are currently providing rapid antigen testing at all schools, home tests, PCR testing for symptomatic individuals, and on-demand testing to reduce outbreaks and sustain in-person learning.

How do I use the SPS provided home test kit?

SPS currently has iHealth COVID-19 Rapid Antigen home tests available for use in school or to be sent home with students. IHealth instruction video.

Can families get tested at school testing locations? 

No, the COVID tests offered at school are just for students and staff. There are a number of free testing options for families. You can order free tests through the federal government and the State of Washington.

How can my family receive free COVID-19 tests? SPS will continue to provide school-based testing but we encourage families to also test at home. You can order FREE at-home COVID tests through the federal government and the State of Washington.

FDA Testing Fact Sheets for Patients

DOH provides districts with rapid antigen tests from a variety of companies.

The Fact Sheets below contain information to help you understand the risks and benefits of using these tests for the diagnosis of COVID-19.

Abbott Binax Now COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test

AccessBio CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Test

BD Veritor System for Rapid Detection of SAR-CoV2

iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test

Illustration of two hands holding a heart

COVID-19 Health Safety

Visit the district COVID-19 Health Safety webpage for the latest in-person/remote learning updates, information, and FAQs.

Learn more on the COVID health safety resource page

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