Assisting Childhood Education through Increased Testing: Project: ACE-IT

Statement of Problem

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, finding ways to safely reopen schools for in-person learning is a pressing need. Schools are at the heart of our communities, providing a critical outlet for children through education, safety, nutrition, behavioral health care and important opportunities for social interaction. While incredible efforts have been made to transition to virtual learning and ensure continuity in education, there is no substitute for in-person instruction or the crucial resources that brick-and-mortar schools provide for children, their families and communities.

While many school districts across the United States and around the world have successfully resumed in-person learning, and evidence suggests that schools have not typically been a significant source of COVID-19 spread, maintaining a healthy environment in which both students and staff feel safe remains a challenge. For children who are most in need of in-person education—such as those with special needs, who may not be able to adhere to physical distancing or wearing masks—and the educators who support them, this challenge is particularly salient. Multiple, layered strategies can accommodate the need for in-person learning while balancing the need to ensure that schools are safe environments where students, educators, staff and families alike can be confident in the measures taken to protect their health.

Description

Assisting Childhood Education through Increased Testing: Project: ACE-IT

We plan to share our lessons learned from this program to help other regions who are interested in developing similar programs to protect their communities.

A Public Health Approach

The Project: ACE-IT community shares a common belief that adding routine school-based testing to existing infection-control measures can help maintain a safe, healthy environment for in-person learning by reducing opportunities for transmission. The recent introduction of COVID-19 vaccines provides yet another layer of protection for those who receive them; however, we still do not know whether being vaccinated prevents you from being able to carry and transmit the virus to others. Since children and youth will not receive vaccines during this school year, it will be critical for staff to continue participating in assurance testing after they have received their vaccines. In fact, masking, distancing and hand hygiene will remain essential until the virus is no longer a threat to our communities.

Strategy

With support from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), local health departments and educational leaders across the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania region are implementing school-based COVID-19 testing through Project: ACE-IT. Project: ACE-IT aims to reduce the risk of in-school COVID-19 transmission and bolster confidence that safe, in-person learning is possible when testing is performed regularly. Modeled after a similar public health initiative launched in Texas in fall 2020, Project: ACE-IT uses point-of-care rapid antigen test cards and molecular amplification technology to support two testing strategies: 1) Surveillance or “assurance” testing, which tests staff and select groups of students routinely to detect asymptomatic cases; and 2) Symptomatic testing, for those who come to school feeling well but develop symptoms during the school day. Both approaches meet a critical public health goal of identifying those with COVID-19—particularly those at greatest risk of transmitting to others because they are unaware that they may be contagious—so that they can be isolated and quarantine immediately.

Training & Technical Assistance

PolicyLab and CHOP experts are guiding the implementation of Project: ACE-IT in participating schools across the Greater Philadelphia region, using a “train the trainer” model to create sustainable programming within the schools.

Certification process for BinaxNOW Test

There are three steps for becoming certified to run the rapid antigen test:

  1. Attend a virtual training (future dates TBD) or view the recording of the 2/5/21 session (and get in touch with any questions): https://youtu.be/s7Gtjqx0yBE.
  2. Take the e-quiz: https://redcap.chop.edu/surveys/?s=AKHHL4KKPK; and
  3. Participate in an in-person skill validation, arranged in coordination with your local health department and CHOP.

Support for PA Rapid Test Application

In addition to training, CHOP is offering implementation support and technical assistance for using an online data reporting solution developed specifically for our school-based testing program.

  • Click here to register for a PA Rapid Test App account.
  • Click here for an example of the automated email you should expect to complete your account registration.
  • Click here to register your school or organization as a testing site.
  • Click here for more guidance on using the PA Rapid Test App, including bar codes to enter dummy data.

Questions for those in any stage of school-based testing? Join the conversation: bit.ly/Project-ACE-IT-Slack

Resources

 FAQs & test disbursement logistics

 Implementation planning

COVID tests

Demo videos

 

Next Steps

Project: ACE-IT has launched school-based testing in multiple schools throughout the Greater Philadelphia region, with more joining in this regional effort every week. CHOP will continue to work with local health departments, educational leadership and school personnel to support those in all stages of program implementation.

As with any evidence-based public health intervention, we will evaluate Project: ACE-IT’s outcomes on an ongoing basis and make changes when needed to improve the program. We plan to share our lessons learned from this program to help other regions who are interested in developing similar programs to protect their communities.

We will update this page regularly to reflect developments. 

This project page was last updated in March 2021.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Assisting Childhood Education through Increased Testing: Project: ACE-IT [Online]. Available at: http://www.policylab.chop.edu. [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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