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Board approves COVID-19 testing and potential January 11 return to in-person

Community Consolidated School District 89 elementary and middle-school students could return to in-person learning on Monday, January 11. Students would resume with the same hybrid schedule that was in place during in-person learning in October. Students would still have the option to learn remotely.

All health mitigation practices (masks, social distancing, frequent sanitization, hand washing/sanitizing, self-certification tickets) would still be required when schools open for in-person learning.

The Board of Education also approved saliva COVID-19 surveillance testing for staff and students.

(Learn more about testing: http://bit.ly/2J0CQKq)

After winter break, all students will resume remote learning on Tuesday, January 5. All students who plan to return for in-person learning would submit a saliva test on Monday, January 4, or Tuesday, January 5. Results from those tests would be available no later than Thursday, January 7.

Students and staff that showed a ‘clinically significant finding’ for COVID-19 would quarantine and temporarily learn remotely. If the test results show that the schools can open safely, in-person learning would be available to all CCSD 89 students on Monday, January 11.

More information about surveillance testing is available in the second half of this email. Additionally, the district will be sharing more testing information, a video explaining the testing, and a frequently-asked-questions document on Friday, December 18.

The testing will allow the district to identify people who have a clinically significant finding for COVID-19 but do not show symptoms, which can increase risk in schools.

Returning on January 11 would allow the district time to gather data after the winter break when many families have informed staff they plan to travel or gather in groups. It would also allow the district to make classroom and busing adjustments.

Both the potential return to in-person learning and the surveillance testing were approved at the Board meeting on December 14.

Return to in-person learning

When buildings re-open, the school day will be very similar to when in-person learning was available in October. Students will remain with the same teachers they have been learning with throughout this year.

Students or staff who are positive for COVID-19, students or staff who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and students or staff who have been in contact with a person who was positive for COVID-19 will be temporarily excluded from school, based on the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines.

At both the elementary schools and the middle school, all health mitigation practices (masks, social distancing, frequent sanitization, hand washing/sanitizing) will still be in place. Schools will be cleaned throughout the day with a focus on high-touch areas.

The schools will keep the students in the same remote/in-person assignments they had when in-person learning was available in October. The district and the principal at your student’s school will continue to provide updates as the district moves closer to the return to in-person learning.

Elementary

Elementary students who return to the building will be on a hybrid schedule, attending in-person classes in either the morning session (8:50 to 11:15 a.m.) or afternoon session (1:10 to 3:35 p.m.). There will be no lunch or recess at school. All health and safety protocols will be followed. Students will participate in specials and asynchronous learning activities during the part of the day when they are not in person. Remote students will continue to receive live lessons.

Middle school

Middle-school students will participate in a full, nine-period day. All three grade levels will be split into the same A and B groups that were used in October.

Students in group A would attend school in-person on Mondays and Thursdays, and participate in the same schedule through live video on Tuesday and Fridays. Students in group B would attend school in-person on Tuesdays and Fridays, and participate through live video on Mondays and Thursdays. On Wednesdays, all middle-school students would participate in asynchronous learning, including independent practice, small-group instruction, and conferencing with teachers.

Lunch will be eaten in small groups at desks at least six feet apart.


About testing

CCSD 89 will conduct saliva testing on all in-person students and staff members twice after winter break. This test is an additional layer of mitigation for staff and students. It should not change anyone’s safety practices in or out of school. Students who do not wish to participate in the testing will be able to learn remotely.

All students and staff who plan to return for in-person learning will be tested on Monday, January 4, or Tuesday, January 5, with results available by January 7. All students and staff that plan to return for in-person learning will then be tested again on Monday, January 11, or Tuesday, January 12. Cumulative results will be posted on the district’s website throughout testing.

After January 12, all middle-school students, all staff, and any other students that eat lunch at school would be tested every week. Elementary students would not be tested weekly after January 12 because they do not eat in the building and are in static groups that don’t mix during the day.

Clinically significant finding

The SafeGuard tests will identify persons who have a “clinically significant finding” as potentially positive for COVID-19. The CDC does not use surveillance testing as a diagnosis, so it cannot be used to confirm a person as positive or negative for COVID-19.

Students or staff members who have a clinically significant finding would be quarantined out of the building and would need a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for a diagnosis. This can help reduce spread within schools.

About the surveillance test

The SafeGuard test requires the person to put a small amount of saliva into a plastic vial and then seal the vial. A CCSD 89 health staff member would help collect the sample. The stations would be cleaned repeatedly throughout the day. 

The samples would then be taken to the nearby SafeGuard lab. All tests will be de-identified so only the district can match the results with the student or staff member. CCSD 89 staff will follow up with any persons who have a clinically significant finding. Students or staff would have to quarantine or get a PCR test, which is considered a COVID-19 confirmation.

The SafeGuard test gives a false positive just 1 percent of the time and a false negative only 6 percent of the time.

Supplementary testing

Additionally, the district has entered a partnership with Simple Laboratories to provide PCR testing to staff members that have symptoms. Because the PCR tests are considered a confirmation for COVID-19, healthy staff members would be able to return to school more quickly and reduce to need for substitute teachers.

Nasal swabs will also be available to in-person students or staff that cannot complete a saliva test.

Additional information

The district developed the testing plans after meeting with multiple vendors that offered different types of testing. The district also consulted on all options with Dr. Jessica McIntyre, a CCSD 89 parent who is an associate professor in family medicine at Loyola University and helped the university develop protocols for in-person learning; Dr. Giselle Sandi-Tapia, Deputy Division Director at Argonne National Laboratory and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogens and Immunity at Rush University; and Dr. Mark Dworkin, the associate director of epidemiology at University of Illinois-Chicago School of Public Health.

On Friday, December 18, the district will be sharing more information about testing, a video showing how testing works, and a frequently-asked-questions document.

Posted: December 15, 2020