School districts must request funds to get their share of the $267 million. (Getty Images)
School districts around the state will receive $267 million in state aid to stand up virus testing programs as the school year begins, Gov. Phil Murphy announced this week.
The funds, which state officials expect will be reimbursed using federal dollars made available under the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan, will allow schools to obtain testing from vendors on contract with the state and can be used to underwrite an in-house testing program that meets guidelines set by the New Jersey Department of Health.
The testing will be available for students as well as for unvaccinated faculty and staff.
“We want everyone to be as safe as possible in their schools and classrooms,” Murphy said during a press briefing Wednesday. “We expect everyone to be wearing their face masks and we will continue to work with district and educational leaders.”
School districts must request funds to get their share of the $267 million. It’s not clear how many districts stand to benefit from the program, and how far the money goes will ultimately depend on how many districts apply, Murphy said.
If the costs run above $267 million, the state will seek to secure additional federal money, he said.
An existing federal program also provides no-cost testing to schools.
To qualify for state funding, school administrators must develop a testing plan in consultation with their local health department.
While COVID-19 posed little threat to children for much of the pandemic, positivity rates for kids have equaled or exceeded those for adults after the Delta variant emerged as the dominant virus strain.
Children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive any COVID-19 vaccine. Among kids aged 12 to 17, 44% are fully vaccinated, and 55% have received at least one dose, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
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