Assessing COVID-19 testing strategies in K-12 schools in underserved populations: study protocol for a cluster-randomized trial

Samantha Hayes, Sara Malone, Brittany Bonty, Nancy Mueller, Summer M. Reyes, Sydney A. Reyes, Christina Evans, Myisha Wilcher-Roberts, Tremayne Watterson, Sewuese Akuse, Jamee Shelley, Grace Yuan, Ian Lackey, Jasmine Prater, Brock Montgomery, Cynthia Williams, Sheretta T. Butler-Barnes, Charlene Caburnay, Nikole Lobb Dougherty, Esther LuAlbert Lai, Julie Neidich, Stephanie Fritz, Jason G. Newland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Since March 2020, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color within the United States. As schools have shifted from virtual to in-person learning, continual guidance is necessary to understand appropriate interventions to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Weekly testing of students and staff for SARS-CoV-2 within K-12 school setting could provide an additional barrier to school-based transmission, especially within schools unable to implement additional mitigation strategies and/or are in areas of high transmission. This study seeks to understand the role that weekly SARS-CoV-2 testing could play in K-12 schools. In addition, through qualitative interviews and listening sessions, this research hopes to understand community concerns and barriers regarding COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 vaccine, and return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods/design: Sixteen middle and high schools from five school districts have been randomized into one of the following categories: (1) Weekly screening + symptomatic testing or (2) Symptomatic testing only. The primary outcome for this study will be the average of the secondary attack rate of school-based transmission per case. School-based transmission will also be assessed through qualitative contact interviews with positive contacts identified by the school contact tracers. Lastly, new total numbers of weekly cases and contacts within a school-based quarantine will provide guidance on transmission rates. Qualitative focus groups and interviews have been conducted to provide additional understanding to the acceptance of the intervention and barriers faced by the community regarding SARS-CoV-2 testing and vaccination. Discussion: This study will provide greater understanding of the benefit that weekly screening testing can provide in reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission within K-12 schools. Close collaboration with community partners and school districts will be necessary for the success of this and similar studies. Trial Registration: NCT04875520. Registered May 6, 2021.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1177
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Cluster non-randomized trial
  • Community
  • Community-based participatory research
  • Public health
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Testing strategies
  • Under-resourced community
  • Underserved


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