After the Thanksgiving break, DC schools will require negative Covid tests


Students and staff at DC public schools must test negative for the coronavirus before returning to school after the Thanksgiving break, county officials said.

The school system’s “test-to-return” policy has been applied throughout the pandemic. Students were also required to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test before the first day of school in August and after a two-week winter break last school year.

Public schools started distributing coronavirus test kits on Thursday, officials said. Families can also pick up test kits at any of the city’s Covid centers, which are located in all eight boroughs.

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Students are expected to take their tests at home on Sunday and upload their results online. Schools also accept photos or copies of student results if they do not have internet access at home.

The district’s approach sets it apart from other school systems in the area that have dropped the test-to-return policy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped recommending routine screenings in schools, but said campuses are considering testing at major events, “high-risk activities” – like contact sports or theater – and returning after the holidays could.

In Montgomery County, schools are providing coronavirus test kits to staff and students, but proof of a negative test is not required to return to school after recess. Last year, schools across the region saw a spike in coronavirus cases to their campuses after Thanksgiving, forcing some to switch to virtual classes, suspend in-person activities or begin an early vacation break.

DC needed negative coronavirus tests to return to school. Did it work?

DC schools required students and staff to provide negative coronavirus test results when they returned from winter break in early January. Some schools used color-coded wristbands to identify students who tested negative, and others staggered arrival times for students who needed on-site testing.

There were some hiccups in the process. An online portal malfunctioned when staff tried to upload results a few days before school started, and some families experienced technical glitches trying to share their students’ status. When the test data was finally uploaded, some of the numbers didn’t match the latest enrollment numbers—it showed more test submissions than students or staff.

But district officials said the initiative is the surest way to reopen schools and keep in-person learning alive.


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