Covid-19 testing offers peace of mind to students

Connor Fondrevay-Bedell, columnist

At the start of the second semester, South introduced a new weekly Covid-19 testing program capable of quickly processing the whole school, according to associate superintendent Dr. R.J. Gravel.

The process of putting a testing program in place dates back to efforts starting in July 2020, Gravel said. A parent from Glenbrook North contacted the school and informed them about another possible option.

“A parent from Glenbrook North reached out and said they [heard on] NPR that there was a board of education member from La Grange talking about doing exactly what we were wanting to do,” Gravel said. “They had created this almost exact test from a methodology standpoint but for half the cost.”

The school board member was Dr. Ed Campbell, District 102 Board of Education vice president. Campbell worked on reopening District 102 and founded SafeGuard Surveillance LLC to help put the district’s Covid-19 system in place for other schools. The tests used by the school show a strong possibility of being positive for Covid-19, but are not fully conclusive and require diagnostic testing for confirmation, Campbell said.

“I was aware of the work of these scientists, as they are each HIV-1 researchers, like me, and I have known them for many years,” Campbell said. “As I am a member of the board of education in my home district, and I was involved in developing our plan to re-open schools safely last fall. I was able to use their protocols to establish the surveillance program in our district, LaGrange District 102, which was the first of its kind in the ntion used in a K-12 setting.”

The District 225 school board decided on mandatory weekly testing, since it was determined to be a cost-efficient practice that would keep students safe, Gravel explained. From Jan. 17 to Feb. 14, the school averaged 2,807 test samples with a positivity rate of 0.23 percent, Gravel said. Required testing has helped catch cases of Covid-19 that might have been originally ignored.

“We have found a number of positive students and staff every week when we [have] tested,” Gravel said. “What we have found when we reach out to many of the students [who test] positive is [for Covid-19], that they were symptomatic but they disregarded symptoms because it could be a common cold or things of that nature, [but they] make assumptions. We have individuals that have Covid-19 and wouldn’t otherwise realize it if we didn’t do that confirmation, so that’s been helpful.”

Having weekly testing has provided greater comfort and security for students and made more students comfortable returning to school, according to junior Evie Tsonis. Originally her parents were uncomfortable with her returning to in-person classes but changed their mind when they found out about the testing system, Tsonis said.

She said that the testing has provided peace of mind when participating in activities outside of school.

“Now you have a little more freedom, you don’t have to worry about possibly transmitting Covid-19 to other people, you get immediate results,” Tsonis said.