UO, OHA partner to provide free COVID-19 testing to K-12 schools

Saliva test preparation

The University of Oregon, working with the Oregon Health Authority, has received a $17.1 million letter of intent to provide free COVID-19 testing to public and private K-12 schools in southwestern Oregon during the 2021-22 school year.

The program will offer voluntary weekly testing for students in participating schools throughout Lane, Douglas, Coos, Curry, Josephine and Jackson counties. It is funded through a grant to the state from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is free to participating schools and students.

Tests will be conducted by the UO’s Monitoring and Assessment Program, which has offered campus and community testing for COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic. The testing program is one tool designed to help schools return to in-classroom instruction for students this fall.

“The University of Oregon’s COVID-19 Monitoring and Assessment Program has provided over 90,000 free COVID-19 tests across the state this past year ” said Brian Fox, director of the UO testing program. “This was made possible through generous investments from donors, and the state of Oregon is scaling our existing research strengths to a high-throughput and highly automated clinical laboratory. We are leveraging the resources of our genomics and data science research teams and the expertise of the College of Education to support these efforts, making this a simple process for schools, students and parents.”

Individual schools and school districts can choose to opt-in to the program and register to participate through the Oregon Health Authority. The authority will notify the UO when a school has registered, and a member of the UO team will contact the school.

The testing team at the UO has been proactively reaching out to superintendents and principals across the six-county region to answer questions and facilitate the signup process. Parents/guardians will be provided information from their school if it opts-in to the testing program.

The saliva-based test kits will be given to participating students, who will take them home to collect a sample. The collection kits will be returned to the school, which will be picked up each week by couriers or a national shipping company.

Test results are made available through a secure result portal. Once results are available, the student or a parent will receive an email and text with login information to access the results.

Results will come typically one to two days after the tests are returned to the school. The results will be shared directly with the student or guardians, the Oregon Health Authority, and the local public health office.

The school will not receive the test results for participating students but may be notified by local public health officials if contact tracing is required.

Parents who are interested in knowing how to sign up should reach out to their school to see if they have opted-in to the program. Schools who are interested in the free testing program should visit the testing FAQ page or email c19schoolsupport@uoregon.edu.