Dist. 225 board: Students will be tested for COVID again after Thanksgiving break
Glenbrook North and South students -- vaccinated or not -- will undergo a second round of COVID-19 testing after the Thanksgiving break.
The District 225 board of education on Monday stuck to the plan it had approved on Oct. 25, which authorized testing after potential high-transmission periods of Halloween, Thanksgiving, the holiday break and spring break.
The post-Halloween effort saw 4,268 of the schools' 5,097 students get tested, nearly 84% of the enrollment. Only 0.63% of those tested were positive cases.
What intrigued the board on Monday was not the 284 students who opted out. That was part of the deal. Another 131 were exempt due to positive results over the 90 days before the early November tests.
The board instead wanted to find out why 414 students had neither taken the test nor opted out.
The reason was unremarkable, Glenbrook North Principal Jason Markey told the board on Monday.
"The overwhelming majority was attributed to a pretty average attendance rate," he said.
Those students were largely just absent those days, he said, though some of the absences could have been attributed to students inconvenienced by the scheduling of the tests during their gym or lunch periods.
A better effort to account for those missing students will be made this time, though board President Bruce Doughty acknowledged that 100% compliance is unrealistic.
Another round of emails announcing post-Thanksgiving testing was sent to families on Tuesday, with the tests administered in gym periods on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Again, vaccinated and unvaccinated students will be given the tests, but families can opt out.
(Answering a question posed in the board's Nov. 8 meeting, Superintendent Charles Johns said that exceeding Cook County Department of Public Health guidance not to test vaccinated people due to a possibility of false positive results under the "gold standard" SHIELD test would not draw consequences from health officials, though it said the board might "be prepared for questions," Johns said.)
Markey believed it might be difficult to track down the students who did not take the upcoming COVID test, or to organize another one for those students. However, Associate Superintendent R.J. Gravel said that, by Wednesday, a list of absentees would be produced, and parents would be notified by email of an alternative testing day on Dec. 3.
Testing also is offered weekly at each high school and free daily at the district's administration building.
The board also has been wrestling with homebound learning and additional tutoring, not just for students quarantined with COVID but others with different illnesses keeping them home.
The pressure on teachers has been great to simultaneously attend to students in class and remotely; finding qualified tutors to teach specialized classes, such as high-level math or languages, may be difficult, the board recognized.
Board member Matt O'Hara brought up another point about remote learning.
"You've got to ask yourself," he said, "what kind of system are we doing where the children feel so much pressure that they can't miss 10 days of school? And you've got to ask yourself, if these children are four days out and they're panicking about it, what does this do with mental health and stress, and how does this tie into all of that?"
As Johns and board member Skip Shein suggested earlier in the meeting, homebound learning is a topic that will soon be explored more fully.