COVID screening testing

COVID screening testing is a mitigation strategy that schools can consider for an additional layer of protection.

COVID testing for students and staff

COVID screening testing is a mitigation strategy that schools can consider for an additional layer of protection and to reduce the risk to in-person education. When layered with our existing mitigation strategies, testing will further help contain spread in schools and ensure safe learning environments for students and staff. 

School screening testing can help to:

  • Quickly identify and isolate students and staff with COVID-19. 

  • Identify and quarantine students and staff who may have been exposed to COVID-19. 

  • Identify clusters indicating spread of COVID-19. 

  • Protect students, staff, family members and others who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 or are otherwise at risk for getting seriously sick from COVID-19.

  • Reduce the risk to in-person education.

School testing opportunities 

HIDOE is focused on maintaining and expanding school-based testing efforts in partnership with the state Department of Health (DOH) to coordinate school-based COVID-19 testing for eligible students, staff and school communities, at no cost, through federally funded programs. This involves testing asymptomatic individuals who do not have known or suspected exposure to COVID-19. 

Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) and Operation Expanded Testing (OET) programs are currently available to schools. The Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19 (PAAC) is also providing additional testing. 

All programs are voluntary screening testing programs that are available to students or staff who provide the required consent. 

See list of participating schools below.

Operation Expanded Testing (OET)

OET is available to all schools. Sites use PCR tests that are administered by school staff. Samples collected on nasal swabs are sent to a mainland lab for processing. Parents are then provided with a link to the test results, which are available approximately 24-48 hours later.

Most HIDOE public schools have registered for training to be eligible to participate in the OET program. Some schools are serving as testing hubs for students and staff from other schools within their complex to have access to testing. The Department is also in the process of setting up complex area support teams to help accelerate the rollout of this program. 

Parents interested in registering their child for a school testing or learning more information about this program should reach out to their school for more details. 

Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC)

ELC prioritizes schools in more vulnerable communities. Rapid tests are administered and processed by a healthcare provider. 

Pacific Alliance Against COVID-19 (PAAC)

The PAAC is provides an additional rapid testing option for schools in the Nanakuli, Waianae, Honokaa and Kohala complexes.

Increased Community Access to Testing (ICATT)

Several Oahu schools piloted the ICATT program over the summer, which involved CVS conducting screening tests on campus and/or providing vouchers for testing at CVS locations for students, staff and family members of the school community. The pilot program ran from June to September 2021 and will be evaluated for future use.

See this DOH resource on the importance of testing for COVID-19 in schools.

COVID-19 Self-Test Kits

In addition to on-campus testing opportunities, the HIDOE announced in late March 2022 that it will be providing a total of 750,000 COVID-19 self-tests for students and staff in partnership with the DOH. These over-the-counter kits will be made available to requesting students and staff who are not feeling well, have recently traveled, or have been deemed as close contacts.

The Department is working with Hawai‘i Keiki staff to estimate the number of self-tests each nurse should have available to send home when someone has symptoms of illness or is exposed to COVID-19 at school. Schools may also reserve these tests in preparation for special events with large gatherings, such as proms, banquets and graduation ceremonies.

It is important to note that results from the self-tests do not meet the Department’s Return to School/Work Criteria; however, this distribution will encourage students and staff to test in instances where doing so is strongly recommended but not required (e.g., upon returning from travel, after attending an event, etc.), ultimately helping detect and minimize spread of the virus in our schools.

COVID-19 Self-Tests must be stored in temperatures below 87° Fahrenheit and are intended for self-administration only. Students under age 18 require parental consent before taking an at-home test.

Community testing opportunities 

As the Department works to ramp up school testing sites, students, staff and community members are encouraged to take advantage of the free COVID-19 testing opportunities that are available on all islands. Click here to find a testing site near you.


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