Weeks after Glencoe District 35 announced it would require a negative COVID-19 test to return to in-person learning in January, the board of education heard a plan to ensure students and staff have access to such testing.
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Wang said during the district’s board of education regular meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3 that officials hope the district’s offering will make the process and negative requirement more efficient for all.
“We do continue to hear from parents the challenge of getting a test if you are not experiencing symptoms and the second piece we continue to hear is the (lengthy) turnaround timing on getting results, (so) we hope that this will provide that really easy quick option — at District 35 expense,” she said.
The kits — which perform PCR tests or as Wang said the “gold standard of testing — could cost the district close to $80,000.
By Thursday, Dec. 10, the district will share with parents a registration link to enroll their student(s) in the district’s testing, according to Wang.
Officials want parents to register by Dec. 16 so the district has an accurate count of testing participants.
District 35 officials will then prepare all of the test kits and necessary documentation for distribution to parents on Jan. 7-8, Wang said, and families will need to return the completed test, kit and documentation on Jan. 11-12.
With assistance from the Village of Glencoe, a testing carline will operate on Greenwood Avenue on Jan. 11-12. The district will determine, based on last name, when parents can come through and drop off the kits.
To ensure that the saliva samples are of proper quality, several checkpoints will be set up throughout the carline, Wang said.
Results will reportedly be returned to the district sometime between Jan. 15-18.
District 35 announced late last month that its students will be learning remotely from Monday, Nov. 30, through Jan. 15. Officials also simultaneously announced that the district will require a negative COVID-19 test to return to school on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Wang assured the board and the public that the district will be ready to handle the expected high number of returned testing kits.
“We are planning for upwards of 1,000 kits to be returned,” she said. “We’re ready to take all of them. We anticipate that it might be a little bit lower than that but we’re ready to take the whole number of students who have enrolled.”
According to district documents, if a student has possible exposure to COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms of the virus, the testing fee will be covered by the student’s health insurance.
In that event, District 35 will be charged a $10 lab fee, which it will cover.
If a student has not been exposed to the virus or has no symptoms, insurance will not be billed and the district will be charged and will cover a cost of $85, documents say.
Families who do not wish to participate in the district’s testing are welcome to complete their own testing, Wang said. The district will accept the negative results of a PCR test administered in Illinois between Jan. 10-14.
Rapid tests will not be accepted, officials say.
Before the program begins, Wang said the district hopes to push out as much information as it can and also provide detailed directions and clarity to families.
She added that the district has so far had a “really good return rate and ease of use and ease of collection return rate” in its sampling time frame.
After Wang’s presentation detailing the process, the board approved a series of recommendations for policy revisions allowing the superintendent’s introduction of required COVID-19 testing during the pandemic.
Those revisions were first reviewed during the board’s November meeting.
In response to a question from the board, Wang also said the district could consider future PCR testing access to families.
“All of the documentation and agreements that you are approving tonight … do allow for that,” she said. “And we can continue to offer that and we could then say, outside of this window, there’s a cost associated with it. That is certainly an option and we’ve been working with (Ambry) really well in terms of processing.”
In addition to this one-time COVID testing option early next year, the administration is continuing to review possible options for more frequent surveillance testing, according to district documents.
In a memo to the board, Wang said the district has submitted all documentation to be considered for the Illinois Department of Public Health BinaxNOW rapid antigen test for use in its school.
“Should we receive final approval, we recommend a trial of this option with staff to provide an ongoing screening tool for routine proactive testing,” the memo reads. “We will provide updates to the Board as new information becomes available with regard to this opportunity.”
The board is next scheduled to convene during a Committee of the Whole set for Thursday, Dec. 17
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.