Atlanta Public Schools mandates COVID-19 testing for sports teams

Atlanta Public Schools is mandating twice-weekly COVID-19 testing for all students who play sports or participate in extracurricular activities.

It will remain a rule as long as levels of COVID-19 community spread are high, the district confirmed Thursday.

“State law allows local school districts to impose additional requirements for participation in extracurricular activities, including safety requirements,” the district said in a statement.

An APS spokesman said he did not know how many students are impacted by the testing requirement.

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Nearly a year ago, the district launched a surveillance testing program at schools to screen for COVID-19 among students and employees. Twice-weekly participation became mandatory for staff in September.

Student participation has been voluntary. As of early January, about 20% of parents consented to have their child get tested regularly, and APS leaders have been seeking ways to expand the program.

The district recently introduced a “test-to-stay” policy that allows those who are not fully vaccinated and who have been exposed to COVID-19 at school to continue to learn or work in-person so long as they remain symptom-free and test negative. It is intended to be an alternative to quarantining at home.

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The most recent testing mandate will be enforced for student-athletes and extracurricular participants in elementary, middle and high school.

APS said students do not need to be tested regularly to participate in after-school activities if those activities are related to class coursework, such as an evening band concert.

But the district’s statement said the requirement does apply to students who participate in an extracurricular activity that is not associated with a class, such as an after-school drama club.

APS reported a rise in COVID-19 cases in the weeks before and after the holiday break. For the week ending Jan. 14, the district recorded 505 cases among students and staff.