Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced his administration’s plans to help school districts comply with the recently issued Executive Order 253 requiring all school district staff to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or be subject to regular testing for the virus. To assist school districts with this new requirement, the Murphy Administration will be utilizing funding provided through the federal American Rescue Plan, enacted earlier this year, to implement a free testing program that all school districts have the ability to take advantage of. The requirement goes into effect on Oct. 18.
According the information released by the NJ Department of Health and Department of Education, the program consists of the following two options for districts:
Option 1: End-to-end screening testing will be provided on-site at schools by a state-contracted vendor at no cost to LEAs and non-public schools until federal funds are expended. This comprehensive service solution will include, at a minimum, the implementation, management, staffing, equipment, and daily operations needed to operate school testing clinics, including all required reporting.
Option 2: For LEAs or non-public schools that already have a screening testing program or plan in place, NJDOH will offer funding to support screening testing efforts. To receive funds to support contracts with independent vendors, LEAs and non-public schools must submit their COVID-19 screening testing and reporting plan and it must meet minimum requirements outlined by NJDOH Communicable Disease Service (CDS) Screening Testing Guidance. If this option is selected, LEAs and non-public schools are expected to organize and implement their testing programs and the state will not provide end-to-end testing vendor services. Any entity that selects this option must continue to follow reporting requirements per the latest CDS guidance.
$267 million in grant funding made available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will support the program.
“NJSBA appreciates this program from the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Department of Health, which will assist schools in their efforts to keep students and staff healthy, and maintain in-person instruction in the state’s school districts,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director.
Participation in the state program is voluntary. But districts must complete a survey by Sept. 13 informing the state of their intention to participate or not. Districts must select one of the two options outlined above. Any districts that do not respond by Sept. 13 will be considered not interested and will not be eligible to participate in this program. Testing of students, with parental consent, may also be conducted under this program.
A more detailed overview of the “K-12 School COVID-19 Screening Testing Program” can be found here.
Any questions regarding the statewide school testing program can be sent via email.