ELC School Reopening

COVID-19 Screening Testing

Through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Disease-Reopening Schools cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is offering screening testing for Montana’s K-12 teachers, staff, and students during the 2021-2022 school year. Screening tests are early detection tools. They help identify people positive with COVID-19 to isolate quickly, and their close contacts can quarantine. This helps to limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduces the likelihood of outbreaks. Schools participating in screening testing are still advised to maintain or put in place additional layers of prevention to prevent in-school transmission as recommended by the CDC.

The program uses Binax NOW rapid antigen tests to support surveillance (screening) testing, which tests staff and potentially select groups of students routinely to detect asymptomatic cases. In some cases, symptomatic testing, for those who come to school feeling well but develop symptoms during the school day, may also be performed. 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. Asymptomatic screening testing must be a part of the school or school district's testing plan to participate in this program. 

How to Apply for Funding

Funding Available: 

School District / Private School Size
(Certified Quality Educators)
Funding Level
 25FTE or less  $35,000
 Greater than 25FTE  $45,000

Eligible Entities: All K-12 public school districts and private schools.

Application Period- 1st Round of Funding:
Wednesday, September 1, 2021 - Friday, December 31, 2021 (5:00PM)

*Additional funding may be available in January 2022 based on need and available remaining approved funding. 

Application Instructions:
School districts interested in conducting screening testing are required to submit an electronic application via the Submittable platform. If you have not applied for COVID-19 relief funding through the Submittable platform before, you will be asked to create an account, which will only take a minute. Applications must be submitted by the school district on the behalf of individual schools. Upon submission, you will receive an email notification that DPHHS has received your application. Once DPHHS staff have reviewed the application for completeness, you will receive a notice that your application has been approved or denied. If your application is denied, instructions will be included with corrective actions needed for approval. 

Successful applicants will receive step by step guidance on how to order initial testing supplies from DPHHS, how to register under the DPHHS CLIA waiver, training requirements for individuals administering tests, and instructions related to reporting requirements. 



ELC Reopening Schools Guidance

Frequently Asked Questions

This program is designed to continually test staff students and staff to more quickly identify a potential case of COVID-19. This program is at no cost to schools and provides all of the resources necessary to run a successful screening testing program. Funding can be used to pay for staff or contract with local partners to help conduct screening testing.

To facilitate safe participation in sports, extracurricular activities, and other activities with elevated risk (such as activities that involve singing, shouting, band, and exercise that could lead to increased exhalation), CDC recommends schools implement screening testing for participants who  are not fully vaccinated. In areas with low transmission, schools should routinely test student  athletes, extracurricular participants, coaches, and trainers, and other people (such as adult  volunteers) who are not fully vaccinated and could come into close contact with others during these activities.

Schools may consider implement screening testing of participants who are not fully vaccinated up to 24 hours before sporting, competition, or extracurricular events (e.g., competitions). Schools may consider using different screening testing strategies for lower-risk sports.

School districts and individual schools already receiving Binax Now testing kits and supplies for the purpose of symptomatic testing are not required to participate in this program in order to continue receiving testing kits and supplies. Schools participating in the screening/testing program must implement asymptomatic screening testing as the primary part of their overall testing strategy. Symptomatic testing is also allowed, but only as a secondary focus to identify potential COVID-19 cases and stop the spread early. 

Allowable Expenses
  1. Personnel (term, temporary, students, overtime, contract staff, etc.).
  2. Collection supplies, test kits, reagents, consumables, and other necessary supplies for existing testing (screening or diagnostic).
  3. Personal Protective Equipment - Please see the most current CDC guidance for details (Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools).
  4. Hygiene and cleaning supplies.
  5. Tools, including hardware and software, that assist in the rapid identification, electronic reporting, monitoring, analysis, and evaluation of control measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 that may be translatable to other diseases (e.g., GIS software, visualization dashboards, cloud services).
  6. Contracts with academic institutions, private laboratories, other non-commercial healthcare entities, and/or commercial entities that may provide all or part of the screening testing needs. This may include contracts with companies that offer comprehensive support for screening testing in K-12 (e.g., sample collection, screening testing, and reporting).
  7. Program incentives may be considered to encourage individuals to participate in screening testing.
  8. Expenses associated with technical assistance to establish school-based screening testing programs (NGOs, academic institutions, foundations, etc.).
The above list covers the anticipated, most relevant costs associated with achieving the activities in the ELC Reopening Schools Grant. This list does not represent a full list of allowable costs. For a full list of allowable expenses, refer to the ELC Reopening Schools Updated Guidance.
ELC School Reopening funds can be used to support costs associated with initiating appropriate follow-up on positive tests (e.g., confirming case status, identification of contacts, collaboration with public health on case investigations) and conducting mitigation efforts to prevent spread within the school population.

Program incentives may be considered to encourage individuals to participate in screening testing. Recipients interested in exploring this option must submit a plan that covers all of the following elements: (a) justification, (b) cost savings [e.g., how it will defray costs or have a positive return on investment], (c) defined amount (not to exceed $25 per instance), (d) qualifications for issuance, and (e) method of tracking. 

Previously awarded resources have been provided to bolster diagnostic testing and response for COVID-19. The additional funds provided under ELC Reopening Schools are intended to be directed toward screening/testing, but CDC and Montana DPHHS understand that there may be some individuals tested using these funds who are symptomatic.
No, the ELC Reopening Schools award cannot be used for retroactive reimbursement.

Schools can review data from the CDC or MT DPHHS to find recent information on the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the previous week. CDC defines community transmission as low, moderate, substantial, or high as referenced on their COVID-19 Data Tracking Page. Schools should contact their local health departments for more information and guidance to assess local public health conditions.

Schools will receive additional onboarding instructions, including how to register and order supplies, after their application has been approved. Schools that that would like to onboard with the DPHHS COVID-19 rapid testing program, but are not going to submit an application for the School Reopening grant, can contact the Montana Communicable Disease Program (406)444-0273 or email schoolhealth@mt.gov. Schools can also reach out to their local health department to inquire about additional test supply options at their school.

The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Tests do not require a medical professional to collect or conduct the tests. While a school district or school-based nurse is preferable, any staff member can be easily trained to conduct the tests.

The test is well tolerated by all age groups and uses a non-invasive collection procedure by inserting a swab a short way in the anterior nose.

Training and informational links:

The CDC recommends taking into consideration the level of community transmission and implementation of mitigation strategies when deciding on frequency of school-based testing. Schools/districts can use CDC’s Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making to determine which schools may provide the best settings for school-based testing based on infection risk.

When using screening testing as a strategy to identify cases and prevent secondary spread, CDC recommends:

  • At least weekly testing of teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated in all levels of
    community transmission. More frequent testing can increase effectiveness of a screening testing program.
  • Weekly testing of students who are not fully vaccinated in areas with moderate,
    substantial, and high community transmission.

See the CDC's Screening Testing Recommendations for K-12 Schools by Level of Community Transmission: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view 

With COVID-19 vaccine widely available, schools may consider screening testing for certain
populations, such as in elementary schools where students are not currently eligible for
vaccination. It may also help facilitate safe participation in sports and other activities with elevated risk, (such as activities that involve singing, shouting, band, and exercise that could lead to increased exhalation). Schools can implement testing among student athletes/participants, coaches and trainers, and any other individuals (such as parent volunteers) who could come into close contact with others during these activities. CDC recommends testing participants who are not fully vaccinated at least once per week for high-risk sports and activities in low and moderate levels of community transmission and twice per week in areas with substantial transmission.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Testing low-and intermediate-risk sports participants who are not fully vaccinated at least
    once weekly in areas of moderate, substantial, and high transmission.
  • Universal screening testing the day of or day before sporting events, competitions, and


A district or school, including local education agencies (districts, charter or private schools, approved special education schools and education collaborative), providing any type of in-person instruction is invited to participate in this initiative. There is no minimum number of participants required at a school site.
Schools and districts are strongly encouraged to involve all students and staff in screening testing,
excluding any individuals who may opt out. However, districts or schools may choose to launch this
program with a smaller subset of schools or grades, and students or staff, and scale up to a school-wide or district-wide model, as desired.
School districts are allowed to work with other school districts in the same school system or school districts in neighboring communities to pool resources for greater efficiency. An example of this could be multiple school districts utilizing ELC grant funding to establish a central screening testing location for staff and/or students from the various participating schools. 

Yes. Multiple school districts within the same larger school system may apply for individual grants. The districts may choose to implement separate screening/testing programs or pool resources to support screening/testing throughout the school system. 

Examples include:

Missoula High School- 0584
Missoula Elementary- 0583


Shelby High School- 0910
Shelby Elementary- 0911