(The Center Square) – New Jersey has earmarked $267 million to support implementation of screening and testing programs at K-12 schools across the state.
“Districts will have a choice between using state contracted vendors to provide end to end testing services on site at schools or districts can request funding to support an in-house testing program, which may already be in place so long as it is consistent with the Department of Health’s guidelines,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a recent news briefing.
Last month, Murphy signed an executive order requiring teachers and state workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 18 or face mandatory testing. Schools can use the $267 million to support testing of unvaccinated staff per the order.
“Given that we don’t yet know the extent to which these programs may be utilized, we don’t know at this point how far this $267 million will ultimately go as we provide these tests at no cost to district students or staff,” the governor added. “Our program will supplement the federal operation expanded testing program, which also provides testing through federally contracted vendors at no cost to schools.”
State officials are uncertain whether the screening and testing programs will cost more than $267 million, but Murphy said the state will find more money for schools if it does. The state is using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) funds to cover the program’s cost, Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
“It’s ready to go as soon as the school districts identify their testing plans and choose whether they’ll do it on their own or through the vendors that we’ve selected,” Persichilli said.
The governor also previously announced a mask mandate for New Jersey schools.