Safely Opening Schools

Safely Opening Schools (SOS) works to disseminate  the use of COVID-19 testing, especially, rapid antigen testing, to prevent the spread of  COVID-19 in schools and help schools reopen more safely.

School Staff Quote

“Using rapid testing we detected 11 cases of COVID in our district in three months, allowing us to send people home to isolate immediately before they could infect others,” Mary Piniol, RN, PHN, a credentialed school nurse at Weaver Union school district in Merced County, one of the SOS pilot districts. “Testing made it safer for our staff and students to come back. We plan to continue testing at least until all of our children can be vaccinated.”


SOS is coordinated by the Public Health Institute and works in close collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, participating school districts, and in dialogue with unions and parents. Our software platform is Primary.Health. Major funding for SOS comes from The California Endowment and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Additional support is provided from the Ballmer Group and others through PHI’s Together Toward Health Initiative.

New at SOS 

School Spring Bulletin

The Safely Opening Schools team has put together a list of resources regarding testing and vaccination across California schools. If you are enrolled in the California K-12 School Antigen Testing Program, please visit the California Department of Public Health Bulletin. If you are enrolled in the Los Angeles County Heluna Health Rapid Antigen Testing Program, please visit the Los Angeles County Bulletin.

Vaccine Policy Brief

Schools are safe to attend, but the pandemic is not over. We need to continue to keep schools as safe as possible for students and education workers. COVID-19 is a resilient virus, consistently mutating into new variants like Delta and Omicron. Read more here.

Tools for Schools

Safely Opening Schools partners with the California Department of Public Health to support the rollout of school-based rapid antigen testing across the state. We provide technical assistance to school districts about how to set up school COVID-19 testing programs and work with school communities to incentivize consents for broad support for on-site COVID-19 testing. Read more here.

About the Pilot

Implemented as an eight-week pilot, SOS promoted rapid antigen testing twice weekly in 10 California elementary and middle schools committed to reopening safely during the Spring of 2021.

Easy, Fast & Reliable Testing

Rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 is easy to use, can be administered onsite by trained non-medical district staff, and provides results within 15 minutes.

Parents and Families

We understand that in-person learning can be critical for a child’s development, with the help of COVID-19 testing and vaccine rollout, we can help bring children back to schools safely.


The Safely Opening Schools (SOS) mission is to keep schools safer by implementing COVID-19 testing for students and education workers in California School Districts. Continued testing—as new variants spread and vaccination hesitancy continues to be present—remains an important step to reduce community transmission and to keep children, school staff, and families including those at highest risk, safer.

Commitment to Racial and Health Equity

SOS is committed to advancing racial equity in health and education across California, and will prioritize pilots where reopening is most urgent, i.e. schools serving: large numbers of children of essential workers; predominantly Black and Latinx communities hardest hit by COVID-19; students requiring special education and other special needs; and those not doing well with remote learning.

© 2021 Safely Opening Schools. All rights reserved. Site design by Doug Rider Consulting.
Safely Opening Schools is a project of the Public Health Institute, (PHI) PHI has been a leader in public health and development for over 50 years. PHI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a vision of creating healthy communities where individuals reach their highest potential. Safely Opening Schools is part of PHIs Prevention Policy Group, which works on policy approaches involved in safely opening public schools after Covid-19.