Reports / Reports

Implementing Covid-19 Routine Testing in K–12 Schools: Lessons and Recommendations from Pilot Sites

Mathematica and The Rockefeller Foundation release new guidance for schools, based on lessons learned from testing programs from 335 school-based sites nationwide

More than 56 million children are preparing to return to U.S. schools this fall, and new analysis provides evidence that routine Covid-19 testing can significantly reduce – and in some cases eliminate – in-school transmission by the virus. A report by Mathematica, a leading policy research firm and funded by The Rockefeller Foundation offers guidance and best practices based on lessons learned from 335 school-based testing sites nationwide. 

This report, Implementing Covid-19 Routine Testing in K–12 Schools: Lessons and Recommendations from Pilot Sites, is based on the experiences of education and public health leaders who implemented school-based testing through The Rockefeller Foundation’s K-12 Testing Protocol Demonstration Project. Testing was implemented in 335 schools and affiliated locations during the 2020-2021 school year across six sites: Louisville, Ky.; Los Angeles; New Orleans; Tulsa, Okla.; the District of Columbia; and State of Rhode Island.

Six Pioneering Pilot Sites in the K-12 Testing Protocol Demonstration Project

Six school sites across the country partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation to pioneer rigorous Covid-19 testing strategies that would keep children safe and schools open for learning. The preliminary report released by Mathematica mid-way through the demonstration project in January paved the way for the federal government to allocate $10 billion to support in-school testing programs.

Early Insights and Recommendations for Implementing a Covid-19 Antigen Testing Program in K-12 Schools: Lessons Learned from Six Pilot Sites

Implementing Covid-19 Routine Testing in K–12 Schools: Lessons and Recommendations from Pilot Sites offers key lessons learned and questions for school districts and public health partners to consider in their reopening plans for the 2021-2022 school year. Read the testimonials from school officials and report excerpts below:


  • School leaders have been working overtime to protect our children in this constantly-evolving pandemic. Sharing what they’ve learned and their best practices will ensure our schools are even safer this fall.
    Divya Vohra
    Senior Researcher, Mathematica
A Big Win

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

Demand for mobile PCR testing is high among teachers and staff, especially after vacation days

  • 71

    number of participating sites

A Big Win

2. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Nursing staff has successfully administered testing at school sites. In addition, they have dedicated nursing staff willing to conduct testing for summer school programs

  • 68

    number of participating sites

A Big Win

3. Washington, D.C.

Students and staff have become familiar with antigen testing and have not shown signs of testing fatigue. The staff mentioned that the program has “created an environment that incentivizes testing.”

  • 8

    number of participating sites

A Big Win

4. Los Angeles, California

Significant support from partners, parents, and city government; many parents and students have expressed enthusiasm for testing and its role in promoting public safety

  • 60alternative learning centers

    number of participating sites

  • 5public schools

    number of participating sites

A Big Win

5. Louisville, Kentucky

Jefferson County Public School District maintained positive relationships with its testing vendor and the community learning hub directors, which has allowed the expansion to the 12 regional sites to run smoothly. Engaging community partners provided a layer of trust and credibility. Additionally, by testing nutrition staff, the school cafeterias could stay open to provide food to students and families as needed. Testing enabled the district to quickly identify and respond to an outbreak among this group

  • 12

    regional testing sites in middle/high schools

  • 17

    learning hubs as participating sites

  • 1

    Central Office Nutritional Center as participating site

A Big Win

6. Rhode Island

Despite continued vaccinations, even among educators, there is still support for continued access to testing. School participation increased from 78 to 109 sites. Central Falls School District staff credit its low positivity rate (.21%) and zero in-school transmission cases to strong communications, processes, structures, and commitment to creating safe and healthy learning environments.

  • 109

    number of participating sites