Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

White House Unveils New Money to Aid COVID-19 Testing in Schools, But Says More Is Needed

By Evie Blad — February 17, 2021 2 min read
Image of a coronavirus test swab.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

White House officials announced a new effort Wednesday to expand COVID-19 testing in schools , but they said even more more funding would be necessary to fill the need.

Through the new, $650 million effort, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will work with the Department of Defense to create “regional coordinating centers” to help boost lab capacity, members of the administration’s coronavirus response team said.

The centers will essentially serve as matchmakers, identifying labs that have the ability to process more tests and pairing them with schools and congregate facilities like homeless shelters that have unmet testing needs, said Carol Johnson, the testing coordinator for the White House response team.

“While this funding will serve only as a pilot until [President Joe Biden’s relief plan] is enacted, we want to work quickly to help get support underway in these priority settings,” she said during a Wednesday press briefing.

Public health officials have said broader testing efforts could help schools ensure safe in-person learning during the pandemic.

Some large districts, like New York City schools, regularly test random samples of students and staff to monitor for potential virus transmission in buildings and to ensure that their mitigation strategies are successful.

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that weekly testing of students and staff can be helpful tool, especially in areas with high rates of COVID-19 in surrounding communities.

But many schools can’t afford such testing or don’t have the resources to coordinate with labs.

Johnson said the new effort will serve as “a bridge” to help meet some of those needs until Congress considers Biden’s broader relief package.

The White House announced two other related efforts Wednesday: $815 million to ramp up domestic production of testing supplies, and $200 million to help detect and trace emerging variants of the virus that may be more contagious.

The American Rescue Plan, Biden’s proposed coronavirus relief package, would provide $50 billion for a “massive expansion of testing” that would include increased use of rapid tests, expanding lab capacity to process tests faster, and aid to schools and local governments to carry out testing programs.

Schools could also spend some of the federal relief money they’ve received through previous relief bills on testing and other mitigation efforts.

The Trump administration provided 100 million rapid tests to states last year to help with efforts to reopen schools. But epidemiologists say schools need more tests conducted more frequently.

Public health experts hope ongoing development and production of rapid tests that can be processed without lab equipment will make testing efforts far more accessible for schools in the future.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal In Reversal, Feds Seek to Revive DeVos-Era Questions About Sexual Misconduct by Educators
The Education Department's decision follows backlash from former education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other conservatives.
4 min read
Illustration of individual carrying binary data on his back to put back into the organized background of 1s and 0s.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal Biden Administration Lays Out Its Top Priorities for Education Grants
The pandemic's impact and a diverse, well-prepared educator workforce are among areas the administration wants to fund at its discretion.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 5, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a White House briefing.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal Opinion How Uncle Sam Writes the Rules for Schools
Former Education Department adviser Michael Brickman explains how negotiated rule making works and why educators should pay close attention.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Top Federal Adviser on Puerto Rico's Schools Declares: 'We Have to Build Trust'
Chris Soto heads an Education Department team providing technical assistance and support for the U.S. territory's public schools.
4 min read
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Carlos Giusti/AP