Omicron on the rise, district implements post winter break testing

Hafsa Rahman, asst. news editor

To mitigate the spread of Covid-19 during the holidays, District 225 will continue to use SHIELD and BinaxNOW Covid-19 testing program for all students after winter break, Casey Wright, associate principal of administrative services, shared.

BinaxNOW Covid-19 testing is a new addition to the testing process this year, associate Superintendent Dr. R.J Gravel explained. Students will now have the option to get nasal tests through BinaxNOW testing as students can eat and drink before the test unlike the SHIELD testing, he said.

Junior Maya Patel believes this new testing option will lead to a smoother testing process for students.

“This option is more convenient as it is difficult for students, especially in [P.E] classes to not drink water,” Patel explained. “For kids in [Early Bird P.E], it’s inconvenient to not eat breakfast before coming to school so [BinaxNOW testing helps],” Patel said.   

The decision to administer the SHIELD Covid-19 testing program on Jan. 4 and 5, 2022, was based on the results of the testing that took place after Thanksgiving break, Wright said. Students will get tested during their P.E. class in the West Gym, Gravel said. He said Health contractors from SHIELD will be in charge of administering both of the tests.

Wright explained that students who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 90 days or who have completed the opt-out form will not be required to get tested.

“As a family and as an individual, you need to have the opportunity to decide [whether] you want to provide any sort of health test,” Wright said.

In the face of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, the administration will continue to use the same protocols to mitigate the spread of this new variant, Gravel said. This includes continuing social distancing, mask wearing, and most importantly, staying at home when unwell, he noted.

“The most important effort we have implemented is encouraging our students and staff to stay home if they are symptomatic,” Gravel said. “When in doubt, stay home and test. That is the most important thing we can do to keep each other safe.”

As of Dec. 6, student quarantines are at the highest rate compared to the rest of the school year, Gravel said.

“The spike [in Covid-19 cases] reflects that when you’re doing more testing, you are going to find more cases which hopefully will prevent the spread of [Covid-19],” Gravel said.

Gravel believes that an increase in testing throughout this school year reflects the administration’s priority of safety and security for all students.

“[The district’s] number one priority continues to be to ensure the safety and security of our students and our staff,” Gravel said. “Covid-19 testing is a reality that we need to continue to implement as a primary mitigation strategy. The type of tests that we are providing during the school day [are] convenient [and] leads to a safer and secure environment. I couldn’t be happier with that.”