Revised September 23, 2021
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Good news! We will be offering free COVID-19 screening testing for our students and staff. This testing can bring you peace of mind and helps keep our schools safe.
Group or Pooled Testing
The voluntary program will offer regularly scheduled “pooled” or “grouped” COVID tests at school to identify infected people who may be symptom-free. Testing is one more layer of protection, along with wearing masks, staying home if there are any symptoms/risk factors, maintaining good ventilation, and more. Everyone is encouraged to participate.
We will also be partnering with the state to offer voluntary diagnostic rapid testing in cases of symptoms/exposure. See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information about diagnostic testing for exposed/symptomatic people. The permission form gives the option of agreeing to one or both of the testing programs.
- To learn more, scroll down to read our Frequently Asked Questions.
- The state has matched us with a vendor to run this programs (NEXT Molecular). Sign up now so you’ll be ready when the program starts in October! Registration is ongoing, but those who have signed up by September 30 can start getting tested in October.
- Thanks to our partners on this project, the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Health. And thanks to our other partners – our students, families, and staff!
Translators and interpreters are available. Our web site and the sign-up form can be translated with Google. Call or email your school for help. You can also text 434-953-1802.
Si tiene preguntas acerca de las escuelas de Charlottesville, llame a nuestra línea telefónica en español al 434-245-2548. Un profesor de español le devolverá la llamada.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I sign up?
Complete this form. We hope everyone – vaccinated and unvaccinated people — will sign up for pooled testing, but we will only test those staff and students who complete the consent form. Need a paper copy of the permission form? Contact or visit your school. The form allows you to sign up for the regularly scheduled pooled testing and/or the diagnostic testing in case of symptoms/exposure.
Does the test hurt?
This is a shallow swab, not the deep nasal swab. One state employee noted, “The swab is less invasive than a child picking their nose.” (And this is the only time you will see the phrase “picking their nose” in a Cville Schools publication, we hope.)
How does pooled testing work, generally speaking?
In pooled testing, a group of 5 people will have their noses individually swabbed. The swabs are then combined into one test sample for PCR COVID testing. If the test comes back negative, COVID was not detected for anyone in the group. If the tests come back positive, each of the 5 people will take an individual test to rule out COVID.
Can I learn more about how pooled testing works?
Vendors provided by the Virginia Department of Health will conduct pooled PCR testing. Vendors will provide trained staff to swab the front of the student’s nose. This is a non-invasive shallow swab. The vendor will then combine samples from several students and/or staff members into a “pool” (or group) of 5 people and test the pooled sample. If a pool comes back negative, we can assume that every individual who was part of that pool had a negative result. If the pool comes back positive, we will need to determine which individual(s) in the pool has/have COVID-19. Some vendors are able to analyze the first sample again to identify the infected person, while others will need to return to the school and collect a second sample.
Where will testing take place?
Testing will take place at school. Pooled testing will take place once per week, but depending on the numbers and people’s preferences, not every student/staff member will be tested each week. If your student was selected for testing, you will be notified. We will know more about the frequency of testing once we know how many people want to participate. Anyone who has signed up by September 30 can start getting tested in October, so please sign up! Registration will remain open for those who choose to join later.
When will I receive results?
Each time your student is tested, you will receive notification of the result within 24-48 hours. If your student is part of a positive pool, you will be notified of next steps — generally, another swab will be collected at school within a day. This individual result will also typically be available within 24-48 hours of the 2nd swab. If the individual test is positive, your child should go home and follow our protocols for isolation and contact-tracing.
Can my student remain in school if they are part of a positive pool, but have not yet received the result of their individual follow-up test?
- At this time, If your child is symptom-free and doesn’t have other risk factors such as a recent exposure, then yes, your child can remain in school (but they would not attend after-school activities such as sports and clubs until results from the follow-up test are received). However, we ask that you monitor for symptoms and take special care with masking and distancing while awaiting the second set of results (which hopefully will be back within 24 hours). As an extension of the school day, the YMCA After School program would allow students to participate in their program while they are awaiting the second set of results.
- If your child shows any symptoms or has been recently exposed (or has another risk factor), then even if your child is fully vaccinated, we ask your child to go home and wait for the individual results.
- If a student’s pooled test was positive but the child declines follow-up testing at the school, then the student will go home until a negative test result is shown; if no test is shown, the student will be treated as a positive case. As noted below, we will adjust these practices as needed following local, state, or national medical guidance and best practices.
- After pooled testing, any individual who develops symptoms should stay home from school, notify the school, and isolate. Arrange to get the follow-up test from a community testing site (don’t come back to the school).
Who will have access to my student’s results?
Negative results will be reported to the tested individual (or family). The school and health department will also receive word of the negative test and the number of individuals in the group. Students in a positive pool will be notified that follow-up testing is required and names will be reported to the school so they can follow up with further screening for symptoms and risk factors. The names of students in a positive pool will not be reported to the BRHD. If a student’s follow-up individual test is positive, the result will be reported to the family, the school, the BRHD, and the Virginia Department of Health.
When will pooled testing start?
We are working out the final details and hope to start by mid-October. Anyone who has signed up by September 30 can start getting tested in October, so please sign up! We encourage everyone to participate. Registration will remain open for those who choose to join later.
How is pooled testing helpful?
Pooled testing is one strategy recommended by the CDC to control the spread of COVID. Testing people in groups allows our community to test more people while saving materials and costs. Pooled testing helps us identify symptom-free people who could potentially spread the virus. For some people, proactive testing is also a relief, a periodic check to know that you or your child doesn’t have COVID. Remember, pooled testing is only one strategy — we will continue to mask, require daily screening for symptoms/risk factors, keep our upgraded ventilation systems in good working order, follow protocols, and more.
How many people are in the pool?
We will have 5 people in a pool or group. (The guidelines are for 5-25 people to be in one pool, and the state recommends keeping the pool sizes on the low end of that range when possible.)
How many people can participate? How often might a student or staff member get tested?
At the participation numbers we have right now, the vendors will be able to test all participants weekly. As our participation numbers go up, we might change the model so that some participants get tested every other week, for example. The goal is to test at least 10-20% of a school per week, and higher if possible. Actual numbers and schedules will depend on the numbers of participating students/staff and the capacity of our vendor. As we learn more about our participation numbers and our vendor’s specific practices, we will let you know.
What about diagnostic testing for people who are exposed or show symptoms?
In addition to screening testing, we are partnering with the state to offer free diagnostic testing for exposed or symptomatic people at school. Free diagnostic testing would be offered in situations such as those who develop symptoms during the school day, or for vaccinated people who have been exposed (starting 3 days after exposure). We would offer the 15-minute rapid antigen test called BinaxNOW, which also uses a shallow nasal swab. While the BinaxNOW test is fast and useful, it is not as accurate as a PCR test, and symptomatic people testing negative on the rapid test should still follow up with a healthcare provider for guidance.
The COVID testing permission form gives the option of agreeing to one or both of the testing programs. Both programs are funded by a partnership with the Virginia Departments of Health and Education.
Remember, if your student feels ill or has symptoms of COVID-19 prior to the school day, keep your student home and check with a healthcare provider. When a sick child goes to school, this puts others in our school community at risk.
A final word
The information in this guide is subject to change based on emerging best practices, the capacity of our vendor, or guidance from local, state, and national medical experts.