The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced on Tuesday, June 15, that it is launching an expanded COVID-19 screening and testing program in public, charter and private K-12 schools.

Beginning in early July, schools and school systems will be able to register to participate.  According to state health officials, more information regarding the screening and testing program will be sent to school superintendents this summer.

In the coming months, NCDHHS will pilot the COVID-19 effort in some summer school programs across the state.  

The enhanced testing is made possible by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Participating schools will have access to COVID-19 rapid tests as well as other test-related information.  Public school districts and charter schools may also get money to hire additional school health staff to conduct the program.

NCDHHS State School Nurse Consultant Ann Nichols explained the reason for the program: “COVID-19 screening testing can help protect our school communities and help keep students in the classroom.  We encourage everyone, including students, to get vaccinated if they are eligible, but students under 12 don’t have that option yet.  This testing program will help keep our schools safe and our students learning.”

 Ellen Essick, the section chief for the NC Healthy Schools Division of the NC Department of Public Instruction, said the state is hoping for a lot of participation from schools.

“We hope public schools will opt-in to the increased staff support,” Essick said. “Today, not all public schools have a school nurse onsite. This means students are missing critical health supports, not only for COVID-19, but also for overall well-being concerns.  We are thrilled that this expanded program gives our public school students and staff resources to ensure they can keep students healthy and learning in the classroom.”

Guilford County government and Guilford County Schools have been for years looking for ways to increase the number of nurses in the schools.