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COVID Testing

Students are required to participate in COVID testing. City Schools has a free, convenient, and effective in-school testing program to respond to coronavirus infections and help keep school communities safe. 

- Diagnostic tests for students with symptoms
- Testing for students exposed to known COVID cases


Important: Parents/guardians must complete and return a consent form for all students.

Download the consent form, and submit it to your school. (English l Spanish)

Note: Please complete this form and email it to your student's school principal or print it out and submit it to the front office. 

Diagnostic tests

If a student starts to feel sick at school with symptoms* that may mean a COVID infection, the Health Suite staff will conduct a rapid antigen test that involves rubbing a small swab (like a Q-tip) just inside the nose. Results take about 15 minutes. If it’s positive, the student will be sent home to isolate for at least five days. See  Isolation Guidance for more details. 

* Symptoms that prompt an in-school test for COVID include fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), chills or shaking, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell, muscle or body aches, cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough), sore throat (when in combination with other symptoms), nausea, vomiting (when in combination with other symptoms), headache (when in combination with other symptoms), fatigue (when in combination with other symptoms), or nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies & when in combination with other symptoms). Please note that the Health Suite staff will determine if students who display symptoms but test negative can return to class.  These students will have to mask for five (5) days on return to class.

Testing for individuals exposed to COVID

Based on the latest guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities, students or staff who have had close contact with a COVID-positive person will no longer have to miss important time in school. 

Rapid antigen tests are available for students who believe they may have been exposed to COVID, whether inside or outside of school. If you believe that your student was exposed to COVID, simply call their school and request "test to stay" testing at the school. Your child will be provided with an in-school or take-home rapid test so they can remain in school. Anyone who tests negative can stay in school. Please note, your child will be required to mask for 10 days after exposure. 

* A student is a close contact if they have been within three feet of a person with COVID for 15 minutes or more.

FAQs about COVID testing at City Schools

Browse below to find more detail about COVID testing requirements and practices, as well as recent updates to in-school testing. Can’t find the answer to your specific question? Email

Who has to be tested for COVID?

City Schools provides tests free at school for anyone who develops COVID symptoms during the school day.  

If you do not want your child to get tested at school, you can opt out. In this case, you will be required to get COVID testing for your child in line with City Schools’ policies and submit proof of testing to their school. If you do not do so, your child can be excluded from school activities (like playing on sports teams). Keep in mind that if you opt out, you must arrange to get your child tested any time they have COVID symptoms or were exposed to a confirmed COVID case. These COVID tests may be done by a medical provider or you may use at-home testing with a rapid test kit to meet the "opt-out" requirements. 

What if my child feels sick at home, and I think they might have COVID?

Please call your medical provider to ask about an appointment for a COVID test for your child or use an at-home testing kit. (These kits are available at many pharmacies and are given out free at libraries and other community locations at scheduled times). You can also visit the City of Baltimore’s website to find a location for COVID testing. 

Important: Do not send your child to school if they have symptoms.

What if a student had COVID already? Do they need to take part in diagnostic testing?

Individuals who have had a confirmed case of COVID may access rapid testing if symptomatic or recently exposed to COVID. Rapid tests are more accurate at identifying new infections those recently recovered from COVID. 

How often will my student be tested?

City Schools only tests students if they have COVID symptoms in school. Additionally, students can get a rapid test if they are a close contact of someone with COVID (and their parent/guardian has agreed to in-school testing on the consent form). If the test is negative, they can stay in school. 

Can parents accompany their students during the testing?

Please be assured that the tests don’t hurt, and students as young as pre-k can do the nose-swabbing themselves. Health Suite staff will help make sure that testing is fast, gentle, and done in a positive environment for all children. 

For diagnostic testing of students with symptoms, Health Suite staff will call parents/guardians to pick up their child promptly after the test if the result is positive.

How long does it take to get results from in-school tests?

Rapid antigen tests are used for diagnostic testing, and results are available in about 15 minutes. Families are notified of a positive test result. 

What happens when test results come in?

Individuals tested in school because of COVID symptoms (diagnostic testing)

If someone tests positive, the student must isolate at home for at least five days and should contact a medical provider about treating symptoms as needed. 

If someone tests negative, they can return to class immediately. 

Elementary and elementary/middle schools

Students who have positive results from the rapid tests will isolate immediately in the wellness room, and families will be notified to pick up their child. City Schools also notifies the Baltimore City Health Department.

Students who test negative for COVID remain in school for the regular day but will be required to mask. 

Middle, middle/high, and high schools

Those who may have been exposed to a known positive case will be offered a rapid test and will be required to mask for 10 days following exposure. Students who test positive must isolate at home for at least five days and will be required to mask for an additional five days when back in school.

Besides identifying cases of COVID, are the results of in-school tests shared or used in other ways?

Results are shared with City Schools, individual 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 taking other steps to prevent the further spread of COVID in the community).

Test providers currently include the Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland Department of Health, and the Maryland State Department of Education (symptomatic testing); Abbott BinaxNOW (rapid antigen tests); iHealth COVID Rapid Test, InteliSwab COVID-19 Rapid Test, Flowflex COVID Antigen Home Test, and Concentric by Ginkgo (rapid testing). 

Any changes to test providers will be shared with parents and posted on this website. 

Results are used in accordance with all applicable laws, Board of School Commissioners 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 or 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 virus that causes COVID (e.g., tracking viral mutations by sequencing viruses and microbes in samples collected through the in-school testing 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 an initiative to figure out which public health strategies are most effective. For example, the initiative may use data from the testing program to look at the effect of changes to how often we test or the use of rapid tests in addition to PCR tests. 

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

Staff will work with parents to ensure that students with disabilities are prepared for testing and that tests are done in ways that are sensitive to their needs. If your child has a documented disability and you are concerned that testing 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 is anxious and does not want to take the tests?

From our experience of the past two years, we know that students generally find the tests easy and comfortable.  If your child is nervous or anxious, staff will do their best to provide support and encourage them to complete the test. Please talk with your children about testing and let them know that the school needs to make sure they are healthy. Remind children that the test doesn’t hurt, is quick, safe, and gentle, and keeps them safe.

Do students who play on school athletic teams have to take part in screening tests?

Yes, all student-athletes must participate in our "test to play" program. The policies around testing and isolation mirror the policies laid out for all students. Student-athletes must follow the testing and isolation guidance outlined on this website in order to remain eligible to play. 

Related pages

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Quarantine Requirements

for COVID-19 Cases

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Health and Safety Procedures

COVID-19 rules for students and staff

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Winter Return to Learning

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