The State of California and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Testing Task Force have developed a program for rapid testing in California K-12 schools using Abbott BinaxNow antigen tests. To use point-of-care tests on students in a school setting, regulations require the use of a CLIA waiver with a lab director and a physician’s order.  The state CLIA-waiver is provided by the state after a memorandum of understanding (MOU) is signed. It also requires the use of an online platform Primary.Health that allows staff and students to provide consent, provides test results in a HIPAA-compliant way, and transmits results to local and state health departments.

1. Getting Started

Find out more about our programs by filling out our Rapid Antigen Testing Onboarding Form. You will receive an email with information about our information session that explains the process of implementing an antigen testing program at your school. For more about our antigen program, see our playbook and flyer below. 

California K-12 Schools Rapid Antigen Testing Onboarding Form  

School Antigen Flyer

Schools Rapid Antigen Playbook

3. Training Requirements

Please complete the pre-training preparatory work below prior to your Hands-On training. Your school / district lead will schedule the hands-on training by emailing schoolbinax@cdph.ca.gov. For Binax Leads, please see the materials needed for hands-on training. Everyone who completes the training needs to complete the training attestation form below, which should be stored in your Binax binder.

Pre-Training Videos and Reading

Materials for Hands-On Training

Training Attestation Form

5. More information on Antigen Testing

The Abbott BinaxNow Antigen test is a simple test to run. We have included answers to common questions about running the test in our Troubleshooting section, as well as reference materials to print out for the testing site. For any additional questions please contact us at SchoolBinax@cdph.ca.gov. Please use the links below to access the CDPH Antigen Testing Guidance, the Binax Expiration Extensions 1 and 2.


Testing Printable Materials

CDPH Antigen testing guidance

Binax Expiry Extension – May 2021

Binax Expiry Update – March 2021

2. Next Steps for the Antigen Program

After completing our onboarding form and attending the optional information session, you will receive a welcome email including our detailed “Next Steps Checklist” and a link to request your Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Once you have requested your MOU, please order antigen tests for your hands-on training session and start preparing to invite your school community to join Primary Health (rapid testing vendor).

Next Steps Checklist

BinaxNOW Order Form


4. Binax Lead

Before you begin testing, each school site needs to identify a Binax lead, the person responsible for maintaining the Binax Binder and running quality control (see Binax Lead Responsibilities).  Please have each Binax Lead fill out the Binax Lead Identification Form so we can communicate important test-related updates with them directly.

Binax Lead Responsibilities

6. Communications for the School Community

Communicating with the school community around testing is important to the success of your program. Prepare to communicate with the school community using our sample FAQs. Review our consent form and our video of how children self-swab. Find more resources such as videos to share with parents, sample communication emails and a back to school agreement on our partner’s website Safely Opening Schools.

Sample FAQ for Parents

Consent Form

Video of Children Self-Swabbing

Safely Opening Schools

Confirmatory PCR Test

CDPH is offering free confirmatory PCR tests, to be used as indicated in the Testing Guidance, for those participating in the CDPH School Rapid Testing Program. Currently we are providing Color branded PCR kits to schools that are processed through the CDPH Color Laboratory Network (CLN). Please order the number of PCR kits you anticipate needing with your initial antigen order via the same order form. Once a PCR test is needed, they can be ordered and linked to the student via the Primary Health online platform. If your school is interested in high volume PCR testing, we recommend also enrolling in the CDPH Color/Color Laboratory Network PCR Program.

More information on Reflex PCR as part of the CDPH School Rapid Testing Program.

At-Home Abbott BinaxNow Self-Tests

The State of California is currently offering over the counter BinaxNOW Covid-19 Antigen Self-Test as part of a pilot program. This is the same test that has been used in on-campus screening but is now approved for at-home use.

Self-testing removes the personnel needs for schools as participants do these tests at home. Participants pick up tests from their school or school district and take them home.  Instructions on how to run the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test are found here: How To: Self-Test Video. Results are uploaded with a photo into individual’s Primary.Health accounts and reported to schools via their dashboard. This program is currently being piloted. To find out if your school can participate in the pilot program, please fill out this form.

More information on the Self-Test

Cue Test

CDPH has a limited number of CUE tests available for schools.  The CUE test is a molecular (PCR-like), point-of-care (POC) test with a higher sensitivity than rapid antigen tests.  Similar to the BinaxNOW antigen test, it uses a self-administered anterior nasal swab to collect a sample and takes about 20 min from start to finish. The CUE test is not recommended for high volume testing due to limited numbers of devices available and duration of the test. One reader can test two students an hour. To use the CUE test in schools, participating schools must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in order to receive use of the state-wide CLIA waiver. Interested schools should sign up on the Rapid Antigen Test Onboarding Form.  

Please see our one pager regarding when to use CUE tests in a school environment (CALIFORNIA SCHOOL RAPID TESTING PROGRAM (PDF)). CUE tests can be used in a situation if there is an indeterminate Abbott BinaxNow antigen result. It can also be used to follow up a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case or in a symptomatic person. The CUE test is not a replacement for laboratory PCR.

Interested in learning more about other CDPH school testing programs?