BACKGROUND: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) screening testing is a recommended mitigation strategy for schools, although few descriptions of program implementation are available.
METHODS: Kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) students and staff practicing universal masking during the delta and omicron variant waves from five schools in Durham, North Carolina and eight schools in Kansas City, Missouri participated; Durham's program was structured as a public health initiative facilitated by school staff, and Kansas City's as a research study facilitated by a research team. Tests included school-based rapid antigen or polymerase chain reaction testing, at-home rapid antigen testing, and off-site nucleic acid amplification testing.
RESULTS: We performed nearly 5700 screening tests on more than 1600 K-12 school students and staff members. The total cost for the Durham testing program in 5 public charter K-12 schools, each with 500-1000 students, was $246 587 and approximately 752 h per semester; cost per test was $70 and cost per positive result was $7076. The total cost for the Kansas City program in eight public K-12 schools was $292 591 and required approximately 537 h in personnel time for school-based testing; cost per test was $132 and cost per positive result was $4818. SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates were generally lower (0-16.16%) than rates in the community (2.7-36.47%) throughout all testing weeks.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Voluntary screening testing programs in K-12 schools are costly and rarely detect asymptomatic positive persons, particularly in universally masked settings.
CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT04831866.
J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc
Humans; SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; Schools; Educational Status
K–12 school communities; SARS-CoV-2; screening testing
Kalu IC, Zimmerman KO, Goldman JL, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Screening Testing Programs for Safe In-person Learning in K-12 Schools. J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc. 2023;12(2):64-72. doi:10.1093/jpids/piac119