WASHINGTON - Thousands of students and staff members are expected to provide a negative COVID-19 test to DCPS by Sunday in order to return to school from Spring Break.
It will be the fourth time this school year, the district has asked staff and students to submit COVID test results.
The routine, by now, has become all too familiar. Before students are sent home for the break, their school gives them an at‐home rapid antigen test for them to use the day before they come back for classes.
Once they take the test, they're required to upload their negative test results online using a PDF or photo. Families that do not have internet access can bring a photo or copy of the negative test results to their child's school on the first day they return.
If a student does test positive, a parent or caretaker must let the child's school know they will not be present while they quarantine for a minimum of 10 days from the onset of their symptoms.
But with COVID cases declining significantly across the country and here in the District, why is the testing still mandatory?
According to DCPS data, the week before students left for Spring Break there were only nine positive COVID cases across all elementary, middle, and high schools.
During the first two weeks of April, there were 25 positive cases reported. Barnard Elementary and Bancroft Elementary had the highest positive rates during the month with both schools reporting three positive cases between April 3 - April 14.
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 25: DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee, C, chats with 10th grader Jermisha Hinton, L, and Corban Winston, R, after the announcement of the roll out the chancellor's first big initiative, at Eastern Senior High
Those numbers reflect a steep decline in positive cases in comparison to the data recorded in 2022. Last year, the two weeks prior to students leaving for Spring Break there were a total of 102 positive tests reported as the Omicron variant led to a surge in cases across the country.
Recent D.C. Health statistics also show that over 50% of residents in both the 12 –15 (59%) and 16 –17 (67%) age groups have received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our school communities. We will continue to anchor our health and safety measures to the guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), DC Health, and the Office of State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)," DCPS' website reads. "Policies will be reviewed and adjusted during the school year to address any shifts in public health guidance."
Well, the CDC no longer recommends routine screening testing in K-12 schools.
However, it does suggest communities with high COVID-19 levels can "consider implementing screening testing for students and staff for high-risk activities such as close contact sports, band, choir, theater, and at key times in the year, for example before/after large events like prom, tournaments, group travel, and when returning from breaks including holidays, Spring Break, or at the beginning of the school year."
School records show that when students took the tests before returning from Winter Break in early January, less than 1% of the 31,882 who submit their status tested positive. And less than 2% of the 6,133 DCPS staff members who sent in their results tested positive.
The next break for students and staff will be over the summer. It's unclear at the moment whether DCPS will have the same stringent COVID requirements next school year.