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 Wisconsin’s school testing plans, visit their websiteexternal icon or contact their school-based screening testing program. Camps serving K–12 aged students that are interested in testing can email dhscovidtestingprogram@dhs.wisconsin.gov.

Management structure for school screening

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is offering COVID-19 testing to all K-12 public, private, and independent charter schools in the state by connecting them with appropriate program vendors to meet their testing needs. The testing program is free of charge for schools and is available through approved program vendors for the 2021-2022 school year. The program is designed to simplify the testing process for schools. COVID-19 testing supplies, diagnostic, and specimen collection services are made available to schools free of charge through the approved vendor. Tests will provide reliable results, whether the school chooses to use rapid, point-of care antigen tests along with confirmatory laboratory-based testing, or solely laboratory-based testing for their students, staff, and families. Schools can choose to have a vendor provide onsite specimen collection or to collect the specimens themselves. If the school is conducting the specimen collection themselves, they receive training from their assigned vendor and, if using antigen tests, must obtain a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificate of waiver. Wisconsin schools who opt-in to the state program will be matched with a program vendor to provide full scale COVID-19 testing operations that are flexible to the school’s needs, including conducting testing registration and obtaining consent, specimen collection, shipping, resulting, results reporting, and patient result notification. The school chooses the model and services that are appropriate for their community. The state also provides access to a software platform to support managing patient registration, consents, result notification, and reporting.

Support provided to school districts

DHS released a survey to schools to gauge interest in school testing and various testing models. The survey remains open, and schools may continue to opt in at any time. Vendors were invited to submit interest to become a contracted entity, supporting specimen collection, transportation and resulting for COVID-19 tests. Approved vendors are paired with schools based on geography and school’s needs, along with vendor services, capacity, and costs. Implementation meetings are facilitated by DHS for schools with school population over 5,000; smaller school districts are contacted directly by the vendor. Vendors provide software and specimen collection training for those schools who wish to conduct sample collection themselves. DHS Account Representatives are assigned to each school as a point person for any questions or issues that arise. DHS Vendor Managers are assigned to each vendor to streamline all communications with vendors, as well as facilitating weekly meetings with vendors for quality assurance as well as vendor report out.

The DHS testing program is intended to help K-12 public, private, and independent charter schools provide safe and healthy learning environments by connecting them with appropriate program vendors to meet their testing needs. It advises that regular COVID-19 testing can be an important part of efforts to protect the health and well-being of those in their buildings, along with other mitigation efforts, such as universal and correct use of masks, maintaining adequate physical distance, isolation and quarantine, ventilation improvements, and thorough handwashing. Information was provided to school administrators and boards through multiple webinars and included the CDC Screening Testing recommendations based on community transmission levels.

Testing programs can include any of the following elements using antigen tests and/or laboratory-based tests:

  • Testing for individuals with symptoms or those who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19;
  • testing for people who attended or participate in school-based events or activities;
  • testing on a routine basis for unvaccinated asymptomatic individuals;
  • and testing of large groups in the school when there has been a COVID-19 outbreak.

Additionally, schools are advised to work closely with their Local and Tribal Health Departments to support their decision making. The Local and Tribal Health Departments are included on the introductions between the schools and their approved vendor to support that relationship.