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COVID-19 Screening and Testing Program

Asymptomatic screenings and symptomatic testing

Baltimore City Public Schools will continue to provide COVID-19 testing during the 2021-2022 school year, including two types of testing for students and staff – no-symptom screenings (asymptomatic/ individuals with no apparent COVID-19 symptoms) and testing when individuals exhibit COVID-19-like symptoms (symptomatic). 

Parent consent is required for in-person school, which includes COVID-19 screenings and testing. Please download the consent agreement (English | Spanish), review it, and return it to your school.

In order to keep our community safe, City Schools has developed robust health and safety protocols for in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the latest medical research, best practices, and input from the Baltimore City Health Department, our public health advisors, and other stakeholders. 

The addition of no-symptom, or asymptomatic, screenings are part of a comprehensive health and safety strategy offered by City Schools. This tool further enhances the strong health and safety measures City Schools already has in place including social distancing, face masks, health screening, hand washing, contact tracing, and symptomatic testing for staff and students. 

Below are sections about each type of COVID-19 testing or screening. For general resources regarding the risk of COVID-19, visit our links section on our Health and Safety Webpage. If you have questions, please email them to communications@bcps.k12.md.us.

Free testing for individuals who exhibit COVID-19 like symptoms

City Schools provides free COVID-19 testing when students display common COVID-19 symptoms at school. Examples may be found in City Schools’ Health and Safety Guide. School nurses, health suite staff, or Health and Safety Coordinators will test symptomatic students, using a saliva-based PCR test, a nasal-based POC rapid test, or a nasal-based PCR test. 

Students with symptoms, as well as close contacts, are eligible for testing on-site. School staff will call the symptomatic student’s parent/guardian to pick their child up promptly after their test. 

The testing is conducted by trained staff. 

If a student or staff member tests positive, the school community will be notified, and the individual and their close contacts will be isolated.

If a parent of a student with symptoms of COVID-19 declines testing for their child through City Schools’ symptomatic testing program, they must test their student through a third-party. The student may not return until they receive a negative COVID-19 test.

No-symptom screenings for high school students and students at stand-alone middle schools (screening with no apparent COVID-19 symptoms)

City Schools, through a contractual agreement with Shield T3 Health, will conduct saliva-based testing for students and staff at stand-alone middle schools and high schools. This screening provides early detection of COVID-19, even when individuals have no apparent COVID-19-like symptoms. 

High school students and staff will be individually tested each week through a self-administered saliva-based test offered by Shield T3. Test tubes are then sent to a mobile lab operated by Shield T3 located at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. The test takes minutes to administer and provides results within eight hours of delivery to the mobile lab. Shield T3 labs may test the samples both in a pool and individually.

Parents, staff, and students may download an app that will give them their child’s COVID-19 test results each week. Details on how to download the app will be provided by your school.

Students and staff will be tested regularly, meaning weekly to start. Testing cadence may adjust over time in line with the CDC's guidance about the recommended level of testing based on the community conditions. 

Students and staff who provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination are exempt from participating in COVID-19 asymptomatic testing.  

If a student or staff member tests positive, the school community will be notified, and the individual will be isolated and their close contacts will be quarantined.

For an example of the screenings, please watch this video in English | Spanish

Other resources
  • Infographic for users – English | Spanish
  • Frequently asked questions - English | Spanish is coming soon

No symptom early detection screening for elementary students (screening when no apparent illness)

Students in elementary grades will participate in pooled, or group, screenings through a contractual agreement with Concentric by Ginkgo. This screening provides early detection of COVID-19, even when individuals have no apparent COVID-19-like symptoms. 

Groups of students and staff in classroom pods will use short swabs to self-administer the collection of their own sample that will be included in the pool. Each group's samples will be tested together, providing a single result for each group. The swabbing process is gentle: unlike the deep penetration COVID-19 tests, the swab test used by City Schools does not require more than a swab around the inside edge of the nose. Results for each group test will be made available to City Schools.

Students and staff will be tested regularly, meaning weekly to start. Testing cadence may adjust over time in line with the CDC's guidance about the recommended level of testing based on the community conditions. Students and staff who provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination are exempt from participating in COVID-19 asymptomatic testing.  

If a pool tests positive, students will be individually tested using a Mako nasal-based PCR test provided by the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education.  Mako test results generally require 48 hours, and students and staff will need to quarantine while waiting for results.  After individual Mako PCR test results are received, the positive students will be isolated and their close contacts will quarantine.  Students and staff who test negative with the Mako individual PCR test will return to school immediately, unless they are determined to be a close contact of the individual who tests positive for COVID-19. 

Rapid tests using an Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test provided by Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education may also be used in some schools for symptomatic students, and these results are available within minutes.

For an example of the pooled screening test piloted by City Schools, please watch this video:

Other resources
Why is City Schools offering free COVID-19 screenings?

Screening tests are an important addition to the robust health and safety protocols that City Schools has developed for in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the latest medical research, best practices, and input from the Baltimore City Health Department, our public health advisors, and other stakeholders. Screening tests are early detection tools. They help identify people who are positive with COVID-19 so they can isolate quickly, and their close contacts can quarantine. This helps to limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduces the likelihood of outbreaks.

Do vaccinated students have to participate in COVID-19 screenings?

No. However, vaccinated children must receive a COVID-19 test if they are a close contact of an individual who is COVID-19 positive. Families are encouraged to submit proof of vaccination to enrollment officials for your school. Proof of vaccination may include a completed COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or medical records signed by a health care provider. Families that misplace vaccination records can print copies directly from ImmuNet, Maryland’s immunization information system. 

Who is required to participate in COVID-19 screenings?

All students are required to participate unless they are fully vaccinated. However, vaccinated children must receive a COVID-19 test if they are a close contact of an individual who is COVID-19 positive. 

If you do not want your child to participate in City Schools’ testing program for any other reason, you may decline to participate. However, unless you have an approved medical or religious exemption, you will be required to have your child tested through another organization within 24 hours of when they would have been tested through the City Schools program (weekly or biweekly) and provide City Schools with the test results.

Why does COVID-19 testing begin during the third week of school?

Neither asymptomatic screen testing nor symptomatic testing can occur until after the school has collected a signed consent form for the student.  With 79,000 students returning to school on August 30, schools will need two weeks to collect consent forms.

How often will my student be tested?

Students and staff will participate in screening testing regularly, meaning weekly to start. Testing cadence may adjust over time in line with the CDC's guidance about the recommended level of testing based on the community conditions. In addition to screening testing for all students and staff, City Schools provides symptomatic testing whenever students in schools display common COVID-19-like symptoms.

Is there a cost to participate in the COVID-19 screenings?

No. There is no cost for students to participate in City Schools testing program.

Am I required to sign the consent agreement and participate in COVID-19 testing?

Yes. The actions of each student and staff member impact the health and safety of other members of the community.  In order to keep our school communities safe, City Schools has developed robust health and safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic that require all of us to do our part.  

City Schools asks families to support our rules in writing and to agree to the COVID screenings. If a family does not agree, the student may not be able to fully participate in school activities. 

Families may choose to opt-out of the free on-site City Schools Testing Program. For details on how to opt-out of the City Schools testing program, please reach out to your student’s principal. However, if they do so, they must conduct their own third-party testing in line with the schedule required by their school. 

In addition, students and staff who provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination are exempt from asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. 

Can parents accompany their students during the testing?

Unfortunately, no.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 being introduced into the building, parents will not accompany their children during the screening testing. Students as young as pre-kindergarten can self-administer their own screening test, which doesn’t hurt. Students at City Schools and across the country who have participated in this testing adapt to it quickly! School staff will help to ensure the screening is performed swiftly, gently, and in a positive environment for all children.

For symptomatic testing, School staff will call their parent/guardian to pick their child up promptly after their test. 
 

What if my child cannot be screened due to their documented disability?

Staff will work with parents to ensure that students with disabilities are prepared for screening testing and that it is conducted in ways that are sensitive to children’s needs. If your child has a documented disability and you are concerned that screening would impair your child’s mental or physical health due to that disability, please contact your child’s school to discuss how to proceed.

What happens if my student becomes anxious and does not want to take the tests?

We will do our best to complete the test. If your child is anxious, we will do our best to support them, make them comfortable and encourage them to complete the test, but we may need to skip your child on that particular day. You should talk to your child about testing. We encourage you to tell them that the school needs to make sure they are healthy. Remind your child that the test doesn’t hurt, is quick, safe, and gentle, and keeps them safe.

Through our experience conducting testing for a number of months, we have not found students to be anxious but generally found them to find the test both easy to do and comfortable. 

What if I have questions?

Please review the material on this website, and contact your child’s principal if you have additional questions.

What if my student tests positive?

Elementary School Screening Tests: If a pool tests positive, then all students will receive an individual Mako PCR nasal swab test.  If the positive pool results become available after school hours, depending on the time that tests become available, families will receive communication from the school with specified times that they can bring their child to school to receive an individual Mako PCR nasal swab test.  If positive pool test results become available during school hours, the school nurse, health suite staff, or Health and Safety Coordinator will administer the Mako test immediately during school hours.  After testing is completed, families will be notified of the positive pool, and will need to pick up their child.  Mako test results generally will be available in 48 hours, and students will need to quarantine while waiting for results.  Students who are identified as COVID-19 positive will need to isolate, and their close contacts will need to quarantine.  Students who test negative for COVID-19, and are not close contacts, will return to school immediately.  The school will send out its formal notification of a positive case and follow disinfecting protocols. Rapid tests may also be used in some schools, and these results are available within minutes. 

High Schools Screening Tests:  If a student tests positive through the individual salivia-based test, they will be taken to the wellness room, and their parent will be informed immediately to pick the student up from school. City Schools will notify the Baltimore City Health Department, and the school will cooperate in contact tracing. Anyone identified as a close contact will also be sent home and will be required to quarantine. The school will put out its formal notification of a positive case and follow disinfecting protocols.

When will I receive my child’s results?

For symptomatic testing (for individuals exhibiting COVID-19 -like symptoms): Students and staff typically receive results within 24-48 hours after the test. Rapid tests may also be used in some schools, and these results are available within minutes. 

For asymptomatic screenings (individuals who do not exhibit COVID-19-like symptoms: Students and staff typically receive results within 24-48 hours after the test. 

Please note that City Schools and the test providers are not acting as, my child’s medical provider, and this testing does not replace treatment by my child’s medical provider. Parents should follow up with a medical provider to determine appropriate action with regard to their child’s test results.
 

Does everyone still have to wear masks and practice social distancing?

Yes. Testing does not replace the other important steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19: wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance, hand hygiene, and regular cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces.

How will my students' testing or screening results be used?

 Samples will be tested by trained staff or test providers working under an agreement with City Schools. Results will be shared with City Schools, students’ parents/guardians, test providers, the Maryland Department of Health, the Baltimore City Health Department, and CRISP (Maryland Health Information Exchange), but only for public health purposes (such as contact tracing and taking other steps to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in your school community). 

Test providers include the University of Maryland Medical System, University of Maryland Pathology Associates, Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland Department of Health, Mako Medical, and the Maryland State Department of Education (symptomatic testing); ShieldT3 (saliva-based PCR testing); Abbott BinaxNOW (rapid antigen test); and Concentric by Ginkgo (pooled testing). Any changes to test providers will be shared with parents and posted on this website.
Results will be used in accordance with all applicable laws, Board policies, and City Schools regulations protecting student privacy and the security of your child’s data. Information that may be shared includes your child’s name and test results, date of birth/age, demographic data, school or program participation, classroom/cohort/pod, enrollment and attendance, parent/guardian names, address, telephone, mobile number, and email address.


While no medical experimental research will be conducted using test samples, City Schools and its contractors monitor aspects of the COVID-19 virus, such as tracking viral mutations by sequencing viruses and microbes in samples collected through the program, for epidemiological and public health purposes. City Schools also is collaborating with local universities, including Morgan State University, University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University, on a public health initiative to figure out which strategies are most effective. For example, the initiative may use data from the COVID-19 testing program to look at the impact of changes to how often we test or using rapid tests in addition to PCR tests.

What happens if my student tests positive?

If a student taking a symptomatic test has a positive result,  the student must be picked up from school promptly after receiving an on-site COVID-19 test.  The student cannot return to school until they complete their isolation period.

If a screening pool tests positive using the asymptomatic test for elementary school, then all students will receive an individual Mako PCR nasal swab test.  If the positive pool results become available after school hours, depending on the time that tests become available, families will receive communication from the school with specified times that they can bring their child to school to receive an individual Mako PCR nasal swab test.  If positive pool test results become available during school hours, the school nurse, health suite staff, or Health and Safety Coordinator will administer the Mako test immediately during school hours.  After testing is completed, families will be notified of the positive pool, and will need to pick up their child.  Mako test results generally will be available in 48 hours, and students will need to quarantine while waiting for results.  Students who are identified as COVID-19 positive will need to isolate, and their close contacts will need to quarantine.  Students who test negative for COVID-19, and are not close contacts, will return to school immediately.  The school will also send out its formal notification of a positive case and follow disinfecting protocols.

If an individual tests positive using the asymptomatic test for high schools, the COVID-19 positive student will isolate, and their close contacts will be notified and will quarantine.

Why am I required to get an individual follow up test?

Pooled testing occurs anonymously for each learning pod or classroom - each student submits a sample. If any of the samples from a learning pod or classroom indicate a potential positive COVID-19 case, an individual test is required to determine which of the students is actually positive. 

Why not just test individuals?

Pooled testing is an efficient method to test for COVID-19 in groups even if symptoms are not apparent. This provides a great early warning that COVID-19 may be present in a learning pod or classroom and that further testing is needed.

What if my student's sibling is in a pool that tests positive?

The sibling will need to quarantine if they live in the same house, because they are considered a close contact.