High cost could prevent saliva testing for COVID-19 in St. Charles schools

  • St. Charles school officials say saliva testing for COVID-19 is unlikely to be done in the district because of the high cost.

    St. Charles school officials say saliva testing for COVID-19 is unlikely to be done in the district because of the high cost. Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois

Updated 1/13/2021 6:02 PM

As nearby school districts begin rolling out saliva testing to help curb the spread of COVID-19, St. Charles Unit District 303 officials say the program is likely too expensive for them to implement.

The school board discussed the topic at its regular meeting Monday, with Superintendent Jason Pearson saying he'd been in contact with officials at surrounding districts administering the tests. At a cost of $11 per test, though, Pearson tempered expectations.


"If that's something you'd like to talk about, we would be happy to bring that back," Pearson told board members. "I think probably (a business services committee meeting) would be the appropriate place to do that because it is very expensive."

St. Charles students returned to classes last week after an in-person learning pause was put in place in December due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases. Elementary-school students are in-person five days a week, while middle-school and high-school students are in a hybrid model with a mix of remote and in-person learning.

The District 303 COVID-19 online dashboard reports five active cases among staff and students as of Wednesday, and 359 total cases since August.

Naperville Unit District 203, Wheaton-Warrenville Unit District 200 and Glenbard Township High School District 87 are among those that have signed off on saliva testing. District 203 authorized a $2 million maximum agreement with Safeguard Surveillance LLC to provide weekly testing kits for up to 12 weeks.

With about 12,000 students and 1,500 staff members in District 303, the costs for saliva testing would mount pretty quickly. The school board's next business services committee meeting is Jan. 25.

"It's too costly," school board member Becky McCabe said. "I'm fine to listen to it, but 11 dollars (per test)? We can use that money other ways."

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