Testing remains a key mitigation layer to detect and curb transmission of COVID-19. The California Department of Public Health strongly recommends that schools facilitate access to COVID-19 testing for students and staff, particularly for vulnerable communities. Learn more about school testing from the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force.

Due to the increased travel and social interactions that often occurs during school breaks, CDPH recommends that students and staff get tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to school following major breaks (e.g., summer, winter, spring). CDPH also recommends that schools provide staff and students with over-the-counter/at-home test kits for use in this back-to-school testing.

SMCOE helped distribute COVID-19 test kits to public school districts and charters for testing of students during the first week of school in January 2022.

Testing Resources

For Districts and Schools

CDPH Preliminary School Testing Framework (released May 27, 2022): Find resources from the California Department of Public Health on implementing COVID-19 testing in your schools. CDPH provides more information on various testing strategies, frequencies, and other methods to maintain safe school communities.

According to CDPH, antigen tests should be considered the primary option for detecting COVID-19 in schools instead of PCR tests. Antigen tests that provide rapid results are much better to guide immediate isolation to prevent transmission, whereas a PCR test picks up very low levels of virus both before and after an infection, leading to students and staff unnecessarily missing school, despite feeling well and not being a risk to others.  

For Students and Families

Testing in San Mateo County: Safe, easy, no-cost testing is widely available at County-sponsored locations, private testing companies, pharmacies, and through at-home test kits available for purchase at pharmacies and other retailers.

Over-the-Counter Testing: Schools may provide students and families with over-the-counter (OTC), at-home COVID-19 antigen tests at no cost. OTC/at-home test kits can be used beyond their expiration date as long as the internal control line after test development is both easily visible and the color specified by the specific test instructions.

Students, staff and school community members can use Primary.Health to report OTC/at-home tests results. The school is able to see the test results.