Baseline testing of District 225 students shows .3% positivity
Baseline testing of students and staff members for COVID-19 at Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South, and continued shifting public health guidance, have shown the decisions aren't over yet.
Glenbrook High Schools District 225 board member Skip Shein's idea to gain data through state-funded SHIELD Illinois saliva tests, held Aug. 18-20 at the schools, produced 19 confirmed cases out of 5,649 tests, the district released during its Aug. 23 board of education meeting.
The results showed 17 students and two staff members tested positive, 11 from Glenbrook South and 8 from Glenbrook North. Opt-out forms were made available to students, and out of about 5,200 students, only 23 chose not to take the tests.
According to metrics as of Aug. 29, 12 students were being quarantined and two staff members.
The 0.3% positivity found during baseline testing was well below the 5% rate for District 10, according to the most current Illinois Department of Public Health statistics, but the board still must adjust to the shifting guidance by the Cook County Department of Public Health -- as well as to parents concerned with learning options when sick students must remain home. Students must quarantine for 10 school days after a positive result.
Under advisement from SHIELD, the IDPH and the CCDPH, the district was recommended to continue testing unvaccinated individuals and vaccinated people who display COVID symptoms.
Guidance also said vaccinated individuals should not be tested due to the sensitivity of the SHIELD test, though District 225 Superintendent Charles Johns noted the confusing instance that vaccinated individuals testing positive must still quarantine.
Unvaccinated students and staff who participate in athletics and higher-risk activities such as debate, theater and band are required to test once weekly. However, in an Aug. 24 board update, vaccinated people in those programs may be removed from the testing program after submitting a copy of their vaccine card.
The board on Monday also deliberated, and eventually allowed, all students and staff members the option for testing. This would oppose guidance and, as district Associate Superintendent R.J. Gravel noted, might also oppose the directive of funding being limited to testing those most in need.
Gravel noted, though, that area colleges offer such programs and he would point that out should the need arise.
The matter of continuing to test unvaccinated students and staff in high-risk activities being settled, board President Bruce Doughty listed other discussion items that had come up during the meeting: a larger plan should conditions worsen; a robust learning plan for quarantined students; and requiring vaccinations.
Concerning that last point, Johns said: "I don't want to move faster than our legal counsel can suggest," adding also that people may have a number of reasons not to get the vaccination.
A solid learning plan caught board members' attention after several members of the public complained about quarantined students receiving 5 hours of tutoring per week. Some recalled the remote learning model used last school year, but Johns said that produced "a wealth" of negative feedback among students and parents.
"We had better technology than 99 percent of the school districts in the country and it was a negative experience," he said.
Johns and board members Michelle Seguin and Joel Taub brought up the possibility of livestreaming and recording options for class lessons, such as with YouTube.
The day after the meeting, Glenbrook South student Parker Krex started a petition to establish "partial e-learning at the very least" to aid sick students. As of early Monday afternoon the petition had 1,000 signatures.
All of this will be in play at the board of education's Sept. 13 meeting.
As Johns said, "We have a lot of conversation to do as we move forward."