Opinion: LT should implement a testing program before going to hybrid school

Above is a COVID-19 test and mask

Creative Commons

Above is a COVID-19 test and mask

Position Statement: LT should implement a testing program before going to hybrid school to keep all students and faculty safe. 

As numbers of COVID-19 cases rise in Illinois to those higher than when we were in a state-wide shutdown in March, we are being told it is safe to go back to school. To return to school in a safe manner–one where both students and faculty have comfort of mind–testing is necessary. 

LT is planning to begin a hybrid model on Oct. 19, allowing 50% of the student body and faculty to return to campus, clubs and sports. It is a huge step to return to school and will hopefully benefit students’ social and emotional health, but it can be detrimental to the overall health of the LT community if not implemented correctly.

Currently, LT is planning to issue a Daily Wellness Check screener prior to entering the building that certifies whether or not the student/faculty member has symptoms. Although it is important to regulate symptoms, contract trace, and track symptoms, it fails to provide an actual account of the COVID-19 cases within our school. The screener has many faults including the possibility for inaccurate reports of symptoms and the failure to report symptoms, which all leads to students attending school while having symptoms and possibly COVID-19. A screener does not have the ability to control the accountability of those taking it. As much as one hopes that everyone will be honest, that cannot be assured.

Testing helps determine whether people are infected with COVID-19–regardless of whether they have symptoms–and whether they are at risk of spreading the infection to others. Testing of all students and faculty, including those who have no symptoms, will prevent the spread of COVID-19 by identifying people who are in need of care, isolation and increased contact tracing. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Since it is recognized that nearly half of all SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] infections are transmitted by people who are not showing any symptoms, identifying infected individuals while they are presymptomatic, as well as those who are asymptomatic, will play a major role in stopping the pandemic.” 

There are difficulties in organizing and setting up a school-wide testing program. Luckily, District 102 (Park Junior High and its feeder schools) has implemented one since the start of school in August. Across the district there are over 3,000 students, and the district has been testing all students weekly. The testing is a spit test which costs about $3 to $5 per test. All LT needs to do is reach out to District 102 and utilize their program. Testing is necessary to control the virus and allow us to reopen and return to some sort of normal. 

LT needs to implement a testing program prior to reopening to ensure the safety for all of the faculty, students and community. To stay open, testing is necessary to provide adequate contact tracing and reporting of COVID-19 cases. Without testing, we are walking blind and wide-open into a battlefield without proper knowledge of those around us.