To support schools in creating COVID-19 testing programs for students and staff, the state of Minnesota has extended the deadline for public and tribal schools to apply for grant funding to Oct. 15. The initial deadline was Oct. 1.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) believes in-person learning is critical to a child’s well-being and academic success and testing in K-12 schools remains a powerful part of a broader mitigation strategy for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“Our school buildings are the very best place for our students to receive an education and to develop the important social-emotional skills that will serve them throughout their lives,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller. “Regular COVID-19 testing can help identify new cases early, slowing the spread of the virus, which is critical as many of our youngest Minnesotans are still ineligible for vaccines. MDE and MDH stand ready to support schools in their efforts to create testing programs that protect the health and safety of our school communities.”

Minnesota previously designated $55 million of its Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) Reopening Schools Grant supported through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide COVID-19 testing support for schools to detect and prevent the transmission of the virus within schools.

Every school district, charter school and tribal school is eligible to apply for funding to support the implementation of COVID-19 testing programs for the 2021-22 school year. As of Sept. 28, 44% of Minnesota public and tribal schools have requested grants. Grant funds can be used for staffing or to purchase any necessary supplies to conduct COVID-19 school testing programs, such as test kits and personal protective equipment. Information on how to apply for grant funding is available on the MDE website. Schools should complete their application and accept their award by Oct. 15.

In addition to the grant funding, through Minnesota’s first-in-the-nation COVID-19 school testing program, schools have access to individual PCR tests, pooled PCR tests and rapid tests – both antigen and molecular – at no cost. School districts, charter schools, tribal schools and nonpublic schools have autonomy in developing their testing program and are encouraged to use these options provided at the state or federal level to meet the needs within their school communities.

This school year, COVID-19 health and safety plans are created at the local level by school boards and school leaders. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has issued Best Practice Recommendations to guide schools as they implement layered mitigation strategies such as COVID-19 testing, universal masking requirements, physical distancing, contact tracing and quarantining. These science-based strategies are designed to keep students learning in person and protect the health and safety of students, staff and families. The state is also providing schools with resources and support, including Minnesota’s COVID-19 school testing program and grant funding.

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