On Feb. 1 staff members gathered in the DGN lunchroom to package together saliva test kits for students participating in in-person classes and athletics. According to an email sent on Feb. 3 from District 99, the goal of the tests is to reduce COVID-19 transmission within the school community and ensure safety for all.
Staff members line up after listening to superintendent Dr. Ken Sorensen to collect the kits that they will be packaging. Paraprofessional, Mina Rodriguez, comments on the hope of the community returning back to normal life. “Masks, distancing, lowering the density of students in the building, and [saliva tests] on top of [COVID-19 preventions] should keep the numbers of cases down and keep the schools open,” Rodriguez said.
Within each of the packets that students were sent home with are, the directions on how to use the kit, tubes, straws, and envelopes. Saliva test screenings will start on Feb. 16 and will provide as another layer of protection for the community. Pool manager, Nicholas Cade, is hopeful that the tests will provide more information for the district. “When we started out by just having masks and a face shield, there was still that question of ‘Do we know if there’s any spread in the school?’ and we were just waiting on outside statistics, so getting something from the inside helps a lot,” Cade said.
The staff members meticulously package the saliva kits for students. The fear of COVID-19 has been an understandable risk when returning to school, but staff members are looking at the positive way the kits can help DGN stay open. “I would be glad [to participate in the tests] and I think the parents would be glad because there is one more system in place to monitor and help detect the students who have been exposed to the virus,” Rodriguez said. “It’s good for their families and it’s good for schools to make sure that Downers Grove North] stays open.” Groups of instructions, straws, and envelopes sit on a table in the lunchroom waiting to be officially packaged for a student to use. The fear of COVID-19 spreading to students and faculty members are understandable and the district is trying to reduce the numbers of transmission. Paula Rada describes the uncertainty of knowing or not knowing who has COVID-19 or who doesn’t. “For me, it will help reduce the fear a little bit. It’s kinda like the boogeyman, you never know who’s [has COVID-19] and who doesn’t. It will hopefully get rid of the unknown,” Rada said.
“I guess people are happy that the district is taking this extra step in making sure that the students and the community stay healthy. I appreciate that. I understand that not every step is 100% effective, but it’s the combination of steps that make us more healthy and closer to regular life,” Rodriguez said. The district hopes that the extra steps that they are taking will ensure a safe environment for students, staff, and the rest of the District 99 community. The results of the tests will be available in 48 hours and only those who test positive will be contacted with more information.
Samples will be collected in a drop off bin when participants enter the building once a week. Group A and group E will turn in the samples on Thursday mornings and group B will turn in the samples Friday Morning. Transition 99 students will turn theirs in on Thursdays. “As long as we have the clear guidelines that we have in place right now and we work together as a community, it will work out,” Cade said.
The data that is to be collected from the saliva test kits will not replace the current metrics given by the district and health guidelines. The district will not be able to increase the number of students participating in in-person classes. This is because of the need to be socially distanced within the classroom. “Knowing how to potentially slow down the spread of infections and we can prepare for future changes within the school instead of going one week on, one week off. We can figure out what days were mainly impacted,” Cade said.