D.C. Public Schools will require prekindergarten students to test weekly for covid-19 starting this weekend, as a part of new testing initiative in schools, system officials said Thursday.

The district will provide rapid antigen test kits weekly to prekindergarten and kindergarten students. Pre-K students will be required to submit results before returning to school the next week. The testing is optional for kindergarten students.

The school system is targeting pre-K students, ages 3 and 4, since they are not eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said. Currently, a pediatric vaccine is available for students ages 5-11.

Families will be required to upload results each Sunday before coming back to school Monday. Because there is a holiday this upcoming Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — families will have to upload results Monday to return Tuesday.

Any pre-K student who doesn’t have proof of a negative result won’t be allowed to enter their school building the next week, Ferebee said.

The “test-to-return” initiative is similar to a previous one used recently by the school system. After winter break, D.C. Public Schools required proof of a negative test for all staff and students was required to return for in-person learning. Students with positive results or who didn’t provide proof had to quarantine for 10 days before they came back.

In addition, the school system has said it will continue its asymptomatic testing program. D.C. Council wrote legislation that requires schools in the city to test 20 percent of its students for the coronavirus weekly. D.C. Public Schools traditionally has struggled to meet that threshold. Ferebee said that the new testing initiative with 3- to 4-year-olds would provide “more information," and system officials would continue to “keep our eyes on monitoring the regular asymptomatic protocol we have in place for all grade levels.”

It’s unclear how the plan is going to unfold in schools. Many principals and school leaders found out about the plan to test pre-K and kindergarten students from a news conference the D.C. mayor hosted on Monday, said Richard Jackson, head of the Council of School Officers, a union for mid-level leadership in the school system.

“How it will land on schools and school leaders? We’re not sure because they haven’t unpacked what this looks like," Jackson said. "My members are still trying to come up with quality systems around getting reopened and reopened safely.”

Previously, the Office of the State Superintendent announced that it would be expanding its coronavirus testing across the city by distributing tests weekly to pre-K students at public and public charter schools. Staff at schools will also be provided kits weekly through the initiative, and it’s optional for them to upload results.