The District of Columbia Public Schools system is requiring students and staff to submit negative COVID-19 tests in order to return to campus after spring break, despite low infection numbers in the district and the pandemic widely considered to be over.
Schools gave students an at‐home rapid antigen test before they left for the break, instructing them to use the test the day before they return to class on Monday, according to FOX 5 DC.
Students and staff must upload their negative test results online using a PDF or photo. Those without internet access may bring a photo or copy of the negative test results to school on the first day back.
Parents of students who test positive for the virus are required to inform their child’s school that they will be absent for the quarantine period of a minimum of 10 days from the onset of their symptoms, the outlet reported.
Students and staff within the DCPS system have had to provide negative tests before returning to school after other holidays this school year, including Thanksgiving break and winter break.
The testing requirement comes as coronavirus cases have been declining significantly in Washington, D.C., and across the country. Earlier this month, President Biden signed legislation declaring an end to the COVID-19 national emergency.
For the week of April 10, the last week before spring break, there were only nine positive COVID-19 cases in all DCPS elementary, middle, and high schools, according to DCPS data. There were 16 cases across the school district the previous week.
Among these 25 positive cases reported in the first two weeks of April, Barnard Elementary and Bancroft Elementary had the most infections, with both schools reporting three positive cases since the month began.
These infection numbers reflect a drastic dip in positive cases compared to the same time period in 2022. In the two weeks before students left for spring break last year, 102 positive cases were reported amid a surge in infections across the country caused by the Omicron variant.
According to D.C. Health data, more than 50% of residents in the 12 to 15 and 16 to 17 age ranges have been administered at least two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
The DCPS website says its “highest priority is the safety and well-being of our school communities. We will continue to anchor our health and safety measures to the guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), DC Health, and the Office of State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).”
“Policies will be reviewed and adjusted during the school year to address any shifts in public health guidance,” the website continues.
The CDC no longer recommends routine screening testing in K-12 schools, but it does recommend communities with high COVID-19 levels to consider implementing screening testing for students and staff participating in “high-risk activities.” Those include close-contact sports, band, choir, theater, and at “key times in the year, for example before/after large events like prom, tournaments, group travel, and when returning from breaks including holidays, spring break, or at the beginning of the school year.”
When students submitted the COVID-19 tests before returning to school from winter break in early January, less than 1% of the nearly 32,000 tests were positive, data from the school system showed.
Less than 2% of the more than 6,000 staff members tested positive in the same time period.