COVID-19: K-12 Testing Program Communications Toolkit

Welcome to the 2021-2022 K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program. One of the most effective ways to increase participation in the testing program at your district or school is open and ongoing communication. 

To help support your efforts, we are providing a toolkit designed to equip districts and schools with the resources you need to effectively communicate the benefits of the K-12 COVID-19 testing program to teachers and staff, students, families, and your larger community.

We encourage you to use these communication resources in the way that will best reach your unique audience. Because you know your community best, please customize the templates to meet your needs, and use the key messages and timeline to inform your own materials, such as school newsletters, parent/guardian letters, and social media posts. Including information specific to your district and school within all your communications materials will also help build interest, and including opportunities for parents/guardians to consent to their student(s) being tested in every communication will make the program more accessible and build trust.

Additional messaging opportunities may be determined by the changing COVID-19 landscape, such as the prevalence of variants of concern like the Delta variant, across our state or in your community. This page will be updated to help with those changing needs.

We hope that this communications toolkit will help your district/school build support for the testing program, and will be another tool to help build a safe, healthy school environment for your students and staff.

In this toolkit, you’ll find

  • Key messages and background information 
  • A sample communications timeline to help your district/school build both internal and community-wide support for your COVID-19 testing program
  • Sample message templates that can be edited and shared on your school/district’s website or newsletter

    Key messages and background information

    • School testing is another layer of protection for students, teachers, and school staff. 
    • Regular COVID-19 testing can help prevent outbreaks in the school and the community.
    • Testing is quick and easy, and it is not painful.
    • A one-time consent form will allow students to participate in testing program.
    • If testing is also available for family of students and teachers: Available testing for household members of students and staff can help prevent household spread of COVID-19.

    Test types and testing models available to schools

    Schools may choose to use laboratory-based tests or rapid, point of care antigen tests in their testing program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendations about COVID-19 testing are determined by the level of community transmission. Schools should encourage/require students, teachers, and staff to stay home if they are feeling ill, or if they have been exposed.

    See some basic information on each type of testing model below: 

     Diagnostic testing

    Diagnostic testing is performed when there is reason to believe a person may have COVID-19, such as having symptoms or having recently been exposed to the disease. Diagnostic testing is recommended by the CDC at all levels of community transmission.

    Who to test: Symptomatic teachers, staff, and students. Asymptomatic students, teachers, or staff who had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

    When to test: If a staff member or student exhibits symptoms, such as a fever of 100.4 or higher, a cough, difficulty breathing, or other symptoms associated with COVID-19.

    Next steps: The student or staff member should be tested and sent home or for additional medical treatment. Close contacts should be monitored for symptoms. 

     Screening testing

    Screening testing involves testing all unvaccinated students, teachers, and staff regardless of the presence of symptoms. Screening testing identifies people who are infected prior to developing symptoms. It allows the school to identify and isolate positive people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Screening testing is recommended in communities with moderate, substantial or high levels of community transmission.

    Who to test: All consenting, unvaccinated students, staff and teachers.

    When to test: Testing occurs on a regular basis, such as every week or every two weeks.

    Next steps: Students or staff members who have positive test results should be instructed to isolate until 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, they have been free of fever for 24 hours, and other symptoms are improving.

     Event testing

    Event testing is testing done before, during, or after a school-based event, such as a sports game, dances, or a performance that brings together people from multiple households in a public or private space. Testing is a tool to assist schools, and other event modifications or requirements, such as the wearing of masks, increased hand sanitizer availability, can help provide further layers of protection. 

    Who to test: All attendees of the event.

    When to test: Testing can be completed two to three days ahead of the event, as guests enter the event, or as they are leaving.

    Next steps: If someone tests positive in pre-event testing, they should not attend. If someone develops symptoms after an event, they should isolate and notify the school to begin identifying and notifying close contacts. 

     Outbreak testing

    Outbreak testing occurs when two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases are in the same school. Multiples cases with onset dates within 14 days of each other are considered a school outbreak. 

    Who to test: All consenting, unvaccinated students, staff, and teachers.

    When to test: Once a school outbreak is confirmed, testing should happen as quickly as possible. 

    Next steps: Students, teachers, and staff members who test positive must isolate at home until 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, they have been free of fever for 24 hours, and other symptoms are improving. Students and staff may continue in-person school attendance if they test negative, are not a close contact of someone who tested positive, and do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

    Sample communication resources

     Messaging timeline

    Ongoing communication is one of the most effective ways to build support for your testing program, both internally within your school and across the larger community. Here’s a suggested messaging timeline that can help. 

    Before launch
    • Host a webinar for school leaders, teachers, and staff to explain the program. See previous DHS webinars about the program.
    • Send a detailed letter/email or create a webpage with program basics and benefits.
    • Host a webinar for parents, guardians, and caregivers.
    Week of launch
    • Post on social media platforms.
    • Send school-specific communications to your school community, including what type of testing will be done at your school, as well as information on where, when, and how testing will be done.
    After launch and going forward
    • Share regular updates and results from the program with teachers, staff, and parents/guardians.
    • Host a webinar (two weeks to one month after launch) for the school community in order to answer follow-up questions and encourage more parents/guardians to sign up.

     Message templates

    Customize these templates for your school/district's newsletters, parent/guardian letters, website and social media posts.

    Universal - for all audiences

    Subject: Why is COVID-19 testing important?

    Testing helps reduce community spread and keeps schools operating safely. Testing individuals who are symptomatic or close contacts helps enable rapid detection of cases in the school community and reduce or prevent school outbreaks.

    When our community transmission level is low (or moderate), we will be focusing on testing of those who present with symptoms. Our testing program may change if our community transmission level changes. 

    A routine screening testing, which regularly tests people without symptoms or known exposures, is a crucial tool to reduce unknown spread of the virus. This testing helps protect students, teachers, and staff. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 50% of infections are likely contracted from someone who is asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (not currently showing symptoms but may develop them in the future).

    Add school-specific information here. Some possible information to include:

    • What type of testing your school/district has chosen – symptomatic, screening, etc.
    • How parents can consent to their child being tested – paper form, COVID Connect, etc.
    • Where and when testing will take place at the school
    • What type of test will be used – rapid antigen vs. lab-based test

    Subject: Testing in schools helps protect our entire community

    The level of transmission of COVID-19 in a community and in a school are connected. The higher the level of community spread, the more likely that the virus will be present in the schools in our community.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends implementing multiple layers of prevention to decrease spread in schools. These prevention strategies include consistent and correct use of masks for those who are not fully vaccinated, adequate physical distancing, and frequent hand washing.

    Testing, along with other layered prevention strategies, can help prevent the spread of infection. By providing easy access to COVID-19 testing in schools, we can identify cases early, prevent spread, and help avoid outbreaks. Having testing in schools also helps to ensure all students, teachers, and staff have access to testing. 

    A strong testing program, along with other prevention efforts, will help support a successful, healthy learning environment in our schools.

    Add school-specific information here. Some possible information to include:

    • What type of testing your school/district has chosen – symptomatic, screening, etc.
    • How parents can consent to their child being tested – paper form, COVID Connect, etc.
    • Where and when testing will take place at the school
    • What type of test will be used – rapid antigen vs. lab-based test

    Internal communications - for administrators, teachers, and staff

    Subject: Maximizing in-person learning

    As we begin the school year, the continued spread of COVID-19 may result in students being out of your classroom for a few minutes to be tested. However, having COVID-19 testing procedures in place will help reduce the number of students who are out of the classroom for extended periods.

    A strong testing program, along with other COVID-19 prevention strategies such as mask wearing, hand washing, and physical distancing, will help prevent school outbreaks and spread of COVID-19 in the school and in the community. This will allow students to focus on learning in a healthier environment.

    Testing may take students out of the classroom for a few minutes, but will result in more in-person classroom time overall. This is because, if a student tests positive for COVID-19, they can be isolated quickly, before they expose fellow students and require them to isolate or quarantine.

    Add school-specific information here. Some possible information to include:

    • What type of testing your school/district has chosen – symptomatic, screening, etc.
    • How parents can consent to their child being tested – paper form, COVID Connect, etc.
    • Where and when testing will take place at the school
    • What type of test will be used – rapid antigen vs. lab-based test

    External communications - for parents, general public

    Subject: Operating safely is our priority

    The COVID-19 pandemic brought uncertainty and stress for many of us, and loss for some. Schools returning to in-person learning is something to look forward to, but it can also be a source of some anxiety for students and parents/guardians.

    A strong COVID-19 testing program, along with other prevention strategies and good communication, can be reassuring to parents, teachers, staff, and our students.

    Add school-specific information here. Some possible information to include:

    • What other infection prevention steps the school is taking – masks, extra cleaning, improved ventilation system, physical distancing, etc.
    • How parents can consent to their child being tested – paper form, COVID Connect, etc.
    • Where and when testing will take place at the school

       COVID Connect

      Use this text for your school/district's newsletters, parent/guardian letters, or website content on COVID Connect.

      COVID Connect - A Parent's Guide

       

      How is my child registered with COVID Connect?

      Once your child has been identified for COVID testing, school staff will register your child with COVID Connect, if you have not already done so. Staff will use information from school files and your signed consent form. This information will include, but not be limited to, the following:

      • Full legal name
      • Date of birth
      • Contact information (phone, email and address)
      • Demographic information (gender, race and ethnicity)
      • Symptom status

      If you do not have an email on file, school staff will use FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME@noemail.com to indicate that you should be contacted via phone.

      If you wish to pre-register your child for their test, please go to: https://register.covidconnect.wi.gov

       

      What happens when my child is tested?

      If your child is symptomatic, they will be separated from other children in an isolation room at the school. If there is a consent form on file, staff will register the child on COVID Connect and then perform the COVID testing.

      Once the test is completed, a text will be sent to the registered phone number.
      Staff can help explain the type and number of COVID tests they are using

       

      How will I receive my child’s test results?

      A second text message will be sent once results are ready. Test results typically take 3-7 business days. While the process cannot be rushed, everyone is working have results as soon as possible. There will be two main ways to access test results.

      If there is an email on file, results will be accessible via a secure link sent to that email. You will be able to view and print all test results.

      You can also call the COVID Testing Results Hotline at 1-866-419-6988. Attempts to contact individuals without working emails may be made. But due to high testing volumes and other factors, these attempts may be delayed. Please feel free to be proactive and call us for your child’s results!

      While you wait for test results, please continue use best health practices, like isolation at home, if you or your child are currently experiencing symptoms. Learn more at COVID-19: Healthy Kids: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/kids.htm

      Find more testing information at: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/testing.htm

      Thank you for helping protect the health of your child and community through COVID Connect! 

       

      Additional resources

      Last Revised: August 26, 2021

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