Vermont Gov. Phil Scott stands on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse during a ceremony where he took the Oath of Office on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 Montpelier, Vt. Scott, a Republican, is beginning his third two-year term. Credit: Wilson Ring / AP

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont is planning to distribute 87,000 at-home test kits to parents and guardians this week so children can be tested for COVID-19 before heading back to school.

Gov. Phil Scott Wednesday announced the details of the program, which he first announced on Tuesday.

“I encourage families to take advantage of these rapid tests,” Scott said in a Wednesday statement. “Testing your child before school starts gives you peace of mind and will slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. It also will help protect the most vulnerable and keep schools open, so kids can get the education they need and deserve.”

Parents can begin registering for the program immediately on the Vermont Health Department website and pick up the tests on Thursday and Friday, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 51 Agency of Transportation locations across the state.

Parents or caregivers must register with the student’s name and school. One kit, which includes two swabs, will be distributed per child.

Officials hope parents will test their children before sending them back to school next week, but the tests are not required.

Education Secretary Dan French said sending the tests home is part of a broader testing strategy to expand access to antigen tests across the state. Under the program, schools will provide the tests to the families for their children.

Schools will continue to perform the more accurate tests, but they will be switching from PCR tests to LAMP tests, which provide faster results.

The new testing strategy comes as Vermont braces for a spike in cases caused by the arrival of the more transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus. Cases in Vermont had remained relatively low, but on Wednesday, the state reported 940 cases, 200 more than the previous one-day record, set on Dec. 10.