District 90 has been working to develop a COVID-19 antigen testing initiative that will be offered to symptomatic students, staff, and those who have been exposed as close contacts to diagnosed COVID-19 cases. The test that will be administered is the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test, and it is being sourced at no cost to the District or participants from the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) through the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
District 90 has received a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) waiver from the IDPH that will allow the tests to be administered to qualifying staff and students with advanced parental permission in compliance with state requirements and Abbott test administration directives. The D90 antigen testing initiative will begin during the week of January 11, with more information forthcoming about the specified days and times when the testing location will be open each week. In order to be tested, students and staff will need authorization from their D90 school nurse. Parents will be required to provide consent for students to be tested through a “consent for testing of minors” authorization form and an “authorization for information sharing” form that will allow the District to communicate directly with the child’s physician, as necessary.
All testing will be conducted by individuals with medical certification and training to administer the BinaxNOW test. Tests will be administered curbside with advance reservations off Jackson Ave. (east side of Roosevelt Middle School), with results available to participants in as little as 15-30 minutes.
Please note that there are no plans to administer the test in a blanket (surveillance) fashion across the school district at this time. Since antigen tests do not have the same level of accuracy as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, it is possible that an individual can be infected with the COVID-19 virus but have a negative antigen test result. For this reason, both positive and negative results will prompt referral to the individual’s physician. In the case of a positive result, the physician would be best suited to direct a treatment plan and possible additional COVID-19 testing. In the case of a negative result, the individual would be referred for a medical consult about the potential treatment for the contributing symptoms. Though not a PCR test, it is important to emphasize that this antigen test was developed by the highly regarded Abbott Laboratories and has been deployed very successfully across the nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are enthusiastic about the role it will play in providing easy access to preliminary COVID-19 testing. We believe this will enhance the subsequent management of potential cases and help create a safer school environment for students and staff.
The District is grateful to many individuals in our school community for their role in the development of this testing initiative and the role they will play in implementing the service. These include our amazing District 90 nurses Gina Hardy, Erin Godellas, Pam Clink, Alex Habenicht, and Infection Control Officer Melissa Tatum. Special thanks are also extended to community volunteers Dr. Steven Powell and Barb DeHaan (RN, MS) for their practical and medical expertise in coordinating details, establishing testing protocols, and helping to navigate the CLIA waiver process successfully.
The District is excited about the opportunity to provide this testing option for the students and staff in the D90 community to promote the highest levels of safety in our schools. Please be assured that additional information will be forthcoming in early January.