CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is offering an expanded program providing COVID-19 tests to schools in an effort to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
The state-funded testing program gives schools two options. The first option allows schools to use a state-contracted vendor. The vendor would be provided at no cost to schools that choose this option. The second option supports independent testing. This option allows schools to choose their own testing vendor that isn't state sponsored. NCDHHS would provide tests at no cost under this option.
So far, 137 schools and school districts across North Carolina have signed up for the program. In the Charlotte area, the following school districts have registered for the program.
- Ashe County
- Avery County
- Cabarrus County
- Catawba County
- Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools
- Cleveland County
- Gaston county
- Iredell-Statesville Schools
- Kannapolis City Schools
- Mooresville Graded School District
- Newton-Conover City Schools
- Stanly County Schools
- Watauga County Schools
WCNC Charlotte obtained a full list of schools participating in the program.
"We encourage everyone, including students, to get vaccinated if they are eligible, but students under 12 don’t have that option yet. This testing program will help keep our schools safe and our students learning," Ann Nichols, state school nurse consultant at NCDHHS, said in a June statement when the program was first announced.
The program is supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant also allows public schools to have the option to receive financial support to hire health staff to help facilitate the testing program and response.
"Today, not all public schools have a school nurse onsite," Ellen Essick, section chief, NC Healthy Schools at the NC Department of Public Instruction, said in June. "This means students are missing critical health supports, not only for COVID-19, but also for overall well-being concerns."
Last school year, between December 2020 and June 2021, 58 school districts, charter school and private schools participated in the program. The state was able to provide over 70,000 rapid tests for diagnostic and routine screening testing.