Learn to Return: Washington’s K-12 School COVID-19 Testing Program
Marisa Lloyd

Learn to Return: Washington’s K-12 School COVID-19 Testing Program

Washington Department of Health

OLYMPIA - With the holidays upon us, and indoor winter sports coming up, we may see a rise in COVID-19 cases among children. As of late October, nearly 6.3 million children across the U.S. had tested positive for COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic.

Testing is important for all children — especially those who aren’t vaccinated yet or are experiencing symptoms. And testing is a proven way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Washington schools open for in-person learning.

That’s why the Washington State Department of Health teamed up with a nonprofit known as the Health Commons Project and the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to create the Learn to Return program makes it easier for schools across the state to do on-site COVID-19 testing.

Learn to Return helps schools provide free and easy COVID-19 diagnostic and screening testing for students. Over 480 schools and school districts in Washington state already signed up for the program. This includes public, private, independent, and tribal schools.

School-based testing helps to protect the children, teachers, and staff in our schools. It helps keep schools open for in-person learning and allows sports and other activities to continue. However, most importantly, it helps stop the spread of COVID-19. Children are not required to participate in Learn to Return. 

Unvaccinated students must be tested regularly to participate in school sports and certain extracurricular activities. For more information, see our K-12 COVID-19 School Requirements.

There’s no cost to your family or your school, even if you don’t have insurance. Federal funding covers the cost of the tests.

Parents, guardians, and other family members who live with a student who was exposed may be able to get tested. It’s best to check with your child’s school to see if this is an option.

Multiple testing options are available, including rapid antigen, PCR, and pooled testing. All tests through Learn to Return use shallow nasal swabs to collect samples. It’s quick and painless.

In most cases, samples are self-collected by the person being tested under the supervision of an observer. For more information about tests, refer to the testing FAQs.

Will my child’s privacy be protected if they are tested?

Individuals who choose to participate will be protected under federal HIPPA regulations. It’s no different than getting tested at your doctor’s office. 

However, if your child tests positive, some administrators and staff at your child’s school (such as COVID-19 coordinators) will be alerted if there is a positive test result. They will initiate contact tracing and outbreak mitigation procedures at your child’s school. For more information about positive and negative test results, visit the FAQ page.


Contact your child’s school to find out if they participate in the program. If they do, ask about the process for signing up your child.

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