Note: Recipient-submitted material; content authored by recipient, not ELC
Information current as of October 6, 2021

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To learn more about Virginia’s school testing plans, visit their websiteexternal icon or contact their school-based screening testing program.

Management structure for school screening

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is working with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to launch the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program to provide free COVID-19 testing to public and private K-12 schools across the Commonwealth. The program is primarily designed to provide screening testing for school students and staff, but schools conducting screening testing are also eligible to receive resources for diagnostic testing, including close contact testing. VDH issued a request for proposals to identify testing vendors and is contracting with several PCR and pooled PCR testing vendors to provide screening testing to schools. VDH is also contracting with a vendor to provide proctored antigen testing for diagnostic and close contact testing. The ViSSTA program is an optional program. K-12 schools across the Commonwealth were invited to opt into the program, and only school community members who complete a consent form will be tested. VDH hired program management staff who are responsible for program design, program management, developing resources and technical guidance for schools, data capture and analysis, and program evaluation. VDH also hired K-12 Testing Coordinators to work individually with schools to match school divisions/schools with testing vendors, determine additional school-based resource needs, adapt ViSSTA guidance to specific schools’ settings and needs, and support program stand-up. Public schools may request funds from VDH to support additional resources to implement a testing program (e.g., school-level staff, supplies) and VDH will source those requirements, develop funding agreements, and manage invoicing and compliance.

Support provided to school districts

VDH has developed multiple resources to support community mitigation in schools, including collaborating with VDOE on a Healthy Back to School website aimed at parents, as well as disseminating communications materials (flyers, bookmarks, etc.) for students to discuss strategies such as hand washing and proper masking. VDH recognizes that screening testing is just one mitigation layer that must be employed with other mitigation strategies. VDH also recommended and supported the implementation of required masking in indoor K-12 school settings statewide. Additionally, VDH recommends schools follow CDC guidance to tie mitigation measures to the level of community transmission. VDH has published metrics dashboards to inform schools’ decision-making, including a dashboard indicating Level of Community Transmission. VDH has provided schools with guidance for interpreting and applying Level of Community Transmission metrics and the accompanying CDC guidance, and has directed local health departments and their regional epidemiologists to work with schools on practical application.

Screening testing is optional for Virginia’s schools, but VDH has recommended that schools follow CDC guidance on level of school transmission, as well as CDC’s guidance on screening testing for high-risk activities. Accordingly, VDH has encouraged schools to provide testing for individuals participating in athletics and extracurricular activities such as chorus and band.