Rapid Antigen Testing for Schools and Licensed Child Care

In October 2021, the Ontario government announced improved access to targeted rapid antigen screening in schools and child care centres where the risk of transmission is high. The program provides access to voluntary, rapid asymptomatic screening for unvaccinated children and students in eligible high-risk settings.

Please note: The information on this page is not related to the rapid testing for students over the winter break announcement by the Ontario government. More information about that program can be found here: Ontario Enhancing COVID-19 Winter Testing.

FAQs about the program

How do I know if my school or child care setting is eligible for the program?

Public Health will offer at-home rapid antigen screening tests as an additional layer of preventative COVID-19 screening, to schools and licensed child care settings, on an ongoing basis as risk is identified.

Once a school or child care setting is identified as high risk, a letter will be sent to parents informing them that the kits are available.

What does a rapid antigen screening test do?
  • A rapid antigen screening test identifies the presence of specific proteins on a virus’ surface which could indicate the possibility of a COVID-19 infection.
  • It is quick and accessible - results are ready in 15-20 minutes and tests are more readily available such as through pharmacies and workplaces.
  • Its purpose is to screen for infection, but it does not confirm COVID-19 diagnosis. 
  • A positive screen requires a COVID-19 PCR test completed at an assessment centre or with a take-home PCR test.
When would my child get a rapid antigen test vs. a PCR test (at an assessment centre)?

Public Health and your school will advise when your child is eligible to use the rapid antigen screening kit and when to get a PCR test at an assessment centre.

Rapid antigen tests are used to screen for the possibility of COVID-19 infection and can be used when (must meet all of the following):

  • A parent/caregiver has received a letter inviting them to participate.
  • The student or child is not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • The student or child has not been identified as a high-risk contact.
  • The student or child is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The rapid antigen screening program does not affect when a PCR test (done at an assessment centre) is required. PCR tests are used to diagnose COVID-19 when:

  • Your child is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Your child has been identified as a high-risk contact of a positive case

Visit COVID-19 guidance and resources for our school community page for more information about symptoms, positive cases and return to school processes.

Are all students/children in the eligible school/child care required to participate?

Participation in the rapid antigen test program is optional. The benefit of the program is it provides an additional level of screening protection, in addition to the daily self-assessments and school screening, for settings that are at high risk of transmission.

Targeted asymptomatic screening has the potential to detect cases in schools earlier and reduce the risk of outbreaks and closures, particularly in communities that have a high prevalence of active COVID-19 cases. Expanding access to rapid antigen screening may be another way to help keep schools safer and students in the classroom.

Can I choose to participate in the program at any time (once my school/child care is selected)?

Parents and caregivers can decide if they would like their child(ren) to participate at any time while the program is underway at their eligible school or child care.

Can I test my whole family using rapid tests?

No. Rapid antigen tests supplied are only to be used to test the participating student/child.

How long does the program last once my school/child care setting is identified as eligible?

The school or child care setting will be provided with enough screening test kits for a four-week period. Near the end of the four weeks, Public Health will determine if the school or child care setting is still deemed high risk or not. If the school is still high-risk, the program may be renewed for an additional four weeks.

Instructions for participants

How to get your test kits

Once notified of eligibility, parents and caregivers will arrange with their school or child care setting to pick up the test kits.

When and how often to test

Participating children/students will be asked to be tested twice (2) per week for four (4) weeks, which is eight (8) tests in total. Ten (10) tests are given to each student/child to ensure extras are available should anything go wrong while administering the tests. Testing should be done at home, before going to school or child care.

It is recommended to test on the same two days each week and a few days apart, for example:

  • Mondays and Thursdays
  • Tuesdays and Fridays
  • Sundays and Wednesdays
How to administer the rapid antigen test at home

Please refer to How to test yourself with BTNX Rapid Response™ COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test At Home document for step-by-step instructions.

Reminder: Students are to do the rapid antigen test at home prior to attending school.

How to report your child’s rapid antigen test results

Parents and caregivers are asked to report their child’s rapid antigen test results to Public Health at wdgpublichealth.ca/RAT-results after each test (i.e. complete the survey eight (8) times over the four-week participation period). Each survey takes less than 5 minutes.

Results after testing and what to do

Parents and caregivers are asked to report their child’s rapid antigen test results to Public Health at wdgpublichealth.ca/RAT-results after each test.

  • If a student test negative using a rapid test, they may continue to attend in-person learning at school.
  • If a student tests positive using a rapid test, they must follow Public Health guidance as provided in the rapid test information letter - stay home from school and get a PCR test as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis.

If you need assistance with interpreting your test results, please contact Public Health through our call centre at ext. 7006.