By Sophia Chang
New York City will send home two COVID tests with every public school student on Friday ahead of the week-long midwinter break, but students won’t be required to show a negative test result to return to class on Monday February 28th.
“To keep our school communities safe after the midwinter recess, we strongly encourage all students to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to school on February 28, regardless of vaccination status,” the Department of Education said in a letter to parents that will be distributed Friday.
The DOE asks that parents test their schoolchildren twice: the first time on the evening of Saturday, February 26th, and the second time on the evening of Sunday, February 27th.
Students who present negative results and feel well may return to school on Monday the 28th. Families can use a PCR test, a lab-based rapid test, or a home test kit, like the ones to be distributed to students this week.
While all students in 3K, pre-K and K-12 will receive test kits, the DOE said any student who has recovered from a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the past 90 days does not have to take a test and can return to school on February 28th.
Last week, Governor Kathy Hochul said the state would distribute enough home tests for all school districts in New York to issue to their students before winter break, in hopes of preventing another surge in COVID cases like the omicron variant which ripped through New York City and schools around the winter holidays.
Hochul urged parents to test their students twice before returning to school after the break, and announced that if case numbers remained low among children, she would revisit the current statewide mask mandate for schools.
“After the break, after we have kids tested, we are going to make an assessment that first week of March,” Hochul said at a February 9th press conference, adding that there is a “very strong possibility” the state’s school mask mandate could be lifted then.
The DOE said the COVID test kits have printed instructions included and there are instructional videos in 11 different languages posted online at schools.nyc.gov/HomeRapidTestKits.
Students who test positive are to stay home and isolate – for students in kindergarten and up, the quarantine period is five days and and they can return to school on the sixth day if they are symptom-free. For students in 3K and pre-K, the quarantine period is still ten days.