District 15 going virtual after Thanksgiving, plans to give staff at-home tests
Palatine Township Elementary School District 15 will have all-virtual learning the week after Thanksgiving to prevent a spike of COVID-19, while officials continue to work on a plan to provide at-home saliva tests to school staff members.
The district also is requesting that students who travel to COVID-19 hot spots quarantine for two weeks after they return, officials said at the school board meeting Wednesday night.
Given the resurgence of COVID-19 across the area, "I think Grandma and Grandpa are more important than education right now," board member Michael Smolka said.
District 15 has had 111 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff since it reopened for in-person learning Sept. 21, including 17 instances of potential in-school transmission, district spokeswoman Morgan Delack said.
Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine is closed until Monday due to an outbreak, and Kimball Hill Elementary School in Rolling Meadows went on a two-week pause last month because of COVID-19 cases.
Overall, the average positivity rate within the district's boundaries was 12.7%, based on public health data by ZIP code.
The district is doing all it can to keep students and staff members safe, including extensive contract tracing, and is asking families and students to take precautions to curb the spread of the disease, Delack said.
"We are seeing through our contact tracing that many of our families are not being responsible," she added, noting reports of sleepovers and large gatherings and that students attended parties when they should have been in quarantine.
Board President Lisa Szczupaj and board member Wenda Hunt said they, too, heard similar reports and saw photos of large student parties for Halloween.
"At some point the scale is going to tip and we are not going to be able to keep our doors open. That's my fear," Superintendent Laurie Heinz said. "So we're putting out a strong plea."
Meanwhile, the district is working with California-based Ambry Genetics to provide tests for all its 2,000 staff members, Delack said. Staff members would take a test only if they are symptomatic, and it would be overnighted to a lab with results expected within 24 hours.
"We are doing our best to keep our staff in schools," Delack said. The district's legal team is finalizing details with the hope of distributing the tests by next week, she added.
The tests would be free to the district, but it would pay a $10 service fee per test that's sent to the lab.
"Generally speaking, COVID-19 tests are covered in full by insurance if a person has symptoms," Delack said.
The district estimates 50 to 100 tests will be used per week, an expense of up to $20,000 if COVID-19 continues for the rest of the school year, she said. The money will come from federal CARES Act funding, she said.
Staff members who take a test will be provided another test to determine they are symptomatic again in the future, she added.