Dec 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

D.C. public schools will require negative COVID test before return

A student studies in a classroom during the pandemic.

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Students and staff in the Washington, D.C., public school system will need to test negative for COVID-19 to return to the classrooms from winter break next Wednesday.

Why it matters: The nation's capital has one of the highest rates of coronavirus spread, and the new measure announced Wednesday aims to keep classrooms open through a massive testing drive.

  • Students and staff will need to take a test next Tuesday and upload results by 4pm. Those who test negative will be allowed in classrooms the next day.
  • Families can pick up free self-test rapid tests at a DCPS campus Monday or at one of the several daily sites that have been distributing the self-test kits.
  • D.C. has handed out 108,000 rapid test kits to residents since beginning the distribution last Wednesday, according to new stats.

What they're saying: "For us, it's going to be the biggest data collection effort throughout COVID," Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday about the testing of schools.

  • Charter schools will also distribute self-test kits but are not all held to the same requirement for a negative test result. D.C. Public Schools and the charter sectors enroll nearly 90,000 students.

Officials have been reluctant to tie in-person school closings to a specific COVID-19 metric, such as the number of cases at a campus.

  • Instead, Bowser said school leaders will make a determination every school night by 8pm about remaining open for in-person instruction or going virtual-only the next day. Statuses will be posted online.
  • Teachers will be provided KN95 masks and students will continue to be offered surgical masks if they need one.
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