Naperville District 203 officials eager to expand test-to-stay program
Bolstered by recent support from the DuPage County Health Department, Naperville Unit District 203 officials are hoping to expand their test-to-stay COVID-19 program when students return from winter break in January.
District 203 has been using the rigorous testing program this school year to keep students in classrooms instead of quarantining after they've been exposed to the virus. Superintendent Dan Bridges said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study this week indicating the program's effectiveness.
According to Patrick Nolten, the district's assistant superintendent for assessment and accountability, the district has processed more than 55,000 samples through SHIELD Illinois with a 0.5% positivity rate. He said 159 students successfully have completed the test-to-stay protocols, meaning they never tested positive through multiple tests,
Nolten said four students have tested positive and 48 students are currently in progress in test-to-stay. Testing occurs from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays at the district administrative center.
"(The health department) allowed school districts to implement (test-to-stay) without any support," Bridges said. "Now they're indicating this as one of the effective layers of mitigation districts could use, and should consider using. Fortunately, we already have a process and protocol in place."
With the number of COVID-19 cases rising throughout the state and country, Bridges said he and other superintendents are seeking guidance from Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office and the Illinois Department of Public Health with the goal of using mitigation tools such as test-to-stay to keep students learning in-person.
For the week that ended last Friday, six of the 23 District 203 schools had five or more positive COVID-19 cases among students. At the same time, about 640 students were in quarantine.
District 203 board President Kristin Fitzgerald, who recently met with state officials, said based on the success of test-to-stay, there's support from the IDPH and the Illinois State Board of Education to work toward ending student quarantines.
"They have really seen, just like our data has borne out, that there has been a very little spread of school-based exposures, and that they are looking towards elimination of quarantines at some point in the future," she said.