After an uptick in cases locally, District 225 reexamines COVID testing protocols

 
 
Updated 10/13/2021 12:07 PM

Looking to get ahead of the numbers, the Glenbrook High Schools District 225 board on Tuesday discussed potential tweaks to its COVID-19 testing protocol.

Wary both of new cases in Glenbrook ZIP codes that had moved into "substantial" territory as defined by the Illinois Department of Public Health and last week's announcement by Hampshire High School to go into adaptive pause, the board laid out four options.

 

They ranged from maintaining the status quo of testing students in higher risk activities, voluntary SHIELD testing and "test to stay" protocols to more stringent options. Both SHIELD and the Cook County Department of Public Health have directed that unvaccinated students should not undergo COVID testing.

The board also discussed what to do with students who opt out of testing, including what a board member called the "draconian" measure of suspension or expulsion.

"Throughout the presentation, please keep in mind that the overall goal is to maintain a reasonably high level of safety in our school environment and, at the same time, balance that with trying to provide as near as possible of an educational experience as pre-COVID schooling gave, at this point, to our senior students," District 225 Superintendent Dr. Charles Johns said.

He did note that the positivity rate of 1.72 percent is "really pretty low," and that the eight district students in quarantine as of Oct. 11 were about a third of that seen around this same time last school year.

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Recent figures provided by the testing update showed 52% of students, or 2,665 of 5,147, had submitted vaccination records.

Among those participating in high-risk activities, 81% were exempt from testing after providing proof of vaccination; the remaining 19% are in a weekly testing program.

The three additional testing options presented each included parental opt-out: Maintaining the status quo with testing after Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter break and spring break; weekly testing should District 225 reach "substantial" levels of both new cases and positivity rates; or weekly testing for all students.

In attempting to "strike a balance," as board President Bruce Doughty said, board members aligned most closely to the option of maintaining the status quo with testing after the several key periods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I do like the Option 2 because I think it balances maybe more of the extreme option on one end and the extreme option on the other and it also, I think, captures events that can cause additional transmission. And I think we did see that last year, and the data certainly showed that," Michelle Seguin said.

The topic of students not taking the COVID tests available at the district administration building included three options -- remote instruction by third-party provider such as Edgenuity; suspension or expulsion as a "threat to school safety" or "disruption to the learning environment"; or to permit parent opt-out with a follow-up to parents.

The board recommended the third option, aware that the goal is to keep students in the classroom and also of the second option's potential legal implications.

The board will determine a plan of action at its Oct. 25 board meeting,

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