Saliva Testing Parent Information

Dear District 41 community,

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This information is intended primarily for families who opted into saliva testing but we are sharing it with everyone with the hope that it may provide answers to questions and increase our participation rate. Please review the below information for details about the saliva testing decision process. Thank you to everyone who participated.

As a reminder, saliva screening results/health data is only one of five factors District 41 considers when making the decision to provide in-person learning. The health and safety of our district community is our number one priority. Thank you for your understanding and partnership as we move through this very complicated school year.

Dr. K

Dr. Melissa Kaczkowski


In-Person Learning

How do I return my child’s sample?

You may return the sample on Monday, 11/30 or Tuesday, 12/1.

  • Hours to drop off the sample will be from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Monday, 11/30 or on 12/1 from 8:00 to 10:00 AM. *All samples must be dropped off by 10:00 AM on 12/1. No exceptions.

  • If you plan to return the sample on 11/30, your child can do the test on Sunday night or Monday morning. If you plan to return the sample on 12/1, your child can do the test on Monday night or Tuesday morning. Remember, no food, drink nor toothbrushing 30 minutes prior to the test.

  • Drop off boxes will be by the main entrance to each school. The drop boxes are being monitored by a security camera and will be cleared every 30 minutes.

  • If you have multiple students testing, you can drop off all samples at one school. You do not need to drop off separately.

  • Please make sure that the testing vial has been tightly closed and that the vial and baggie have been wiped off. Make sure to close/seal the small baggie. You should return the sample in the small baggie that does NOT have a student name sticker on it. We do not need the name. The barcode label is all that is needed on the vial.

Why did I not get a test kit for all of my children?

From what we can see in Skyward, there were issues with not hitting “acknowledge” at the bottom of the form. We are still working to figure out why some siblings were not added.

If we had one child on the list from a family, the test vial was barcoded and put in the big baggie along with a small return baggie. We did not put the student’s name on the small baggie because there was only one vial in the bag assuming only one child from the family was testing. If two or more siblings were on the list to test, each vial was barcoded and put into a small baggie. The student’s name was put on the small baggie so the parent knew which test belonged to which child. Return baggies were provided that did not have the child’s name on it. We will make process adjustments moving forward as we work through the logistics of the process. For context purposes, it took approximately 200 (many of these were voluntary hours) man hours to label and prep the baggies and get them in the hands of our volunteer drivers. Our drivers did an amazing job of getting baggies delivered to families on Saturday and Sunday. No small feat to prep and deliver 1700 tests. In speaking with the other districts who are testing, we will get better and better at this each time we do it! Testing is not mandatory but is very highly encouraged.

Who will help determine if District 41 will return to in-person learning?

On Wednesday, November 25, we began a consultative relationship with Dr. Mark Dworkin of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. Dr. Mark Dworkin is a board-certified Infectious Diseases physician with a Master’s Degree in Public Health and Tropical Medicine who was trained in the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service program. Dr. Dworkin has worked at the CDC in Atlanta in the Division of HIV/AIDS where he led a multi-city HIV surveillance project and served as the Illinois Department of Public Health’s State Epidemiologist where he led, presented, and published outbreak investigations and HIV surveillance analyses. As a professor and Associate Director of Epidemiology in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, he teaches public health surveillance and outbreak investigation at the graduate level, consults with health departments, analyzes and publishes surveillance data Dr. Dworkin has also co-taught for the undergraduate public health concentration. He is the editor and author of the textbook, Cases in Field Epidemiology: A Global Perspective that teaches outbreak and other field investigations and demonstrates the value of surveillance through illustrative examples of important outbreaks. Dr. Dworkin’s areas of expertise include:

We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Dworkin’s expertise and guidance as we move forward with implementing a quality approach to screening. Making medically/epidemiologically sound, data-driven decisions is an obligation that we take extremely seriously. We recognize that decisions about Adaptive Pause and the safety of in-person learning are extremely important and have a profound impact on our students and families. We also recognize that there are vastly differing opinions and perspectives regarding what is considered “safe” as well as personal tolerance for risk. The only approach that the district can take and must take is to utilize the experts in the field to guide our decisions as we weigh the benefits of in-person learning with the risks of COVID-19 transmission.

How will we make the decision to open for blended on 12/3 and 12/4?

At Dr. Dworkin’s recommendation, we should feel safe to open on 12/3 if we meet the following criteria:

  • If at least 50% of those who signed up for screening return their samples on 11/30 or 12/1 we will have enough data to make an informed decision about in-person learning. We have 64% of our students in the blended model and 46% of our blended model staff signed up to participate in screening. If too many people do not return the samples we will have insufficient evidence to make a well-informed decision.

  • Our combined positives (based on the saliva testing screening results and those cases that have been reported to our nurses over the Thanksgiving Break) are 3% or less across the district. We can analyze our data to determine if there are clusters of probable positives at a particular school or even within a particular session (AM or PM). This enables us to determine if we can open our blended model at any of our schools and not have to make a decision for the full district when it may only be necessary to stay remote in certain buildings.

When will we know tests results and if the district will implement in-person learning?

We do not know what time we will have our summary results from the lab on 12/2. We have our bus company on standby for a late decision. As soon as a decision has been made on 12/2, we will send out a communication and make a robocall to our families and staff. We very much appreciate the fact that this is late notice but we are trying to optimize the number of days that we can open between Thanksgiving and Winter Break and do it safely.
NOTE: You will be contacted by the school nurse only if your child tests as a probable positive.

When does the district plan on testing again?

If we are able to open for blended in any of our schools, our plan is to send testing supplies home on Friday, 12/4 with a return date of:

  • Monday, 12/7 Grades PreK, K, 1 and 2 (Elementary) and Grades 8 and 7th Grade/PM Session (Hadley). Students who are in the AM session can do their saliva test at home either on Sunday night or Monday morning and return them to school. Students who are in the PM session should take their test on Monday morning before coming to school.

  • Tuesday, 12/8 Grades 3-5 (Elementary) and Grades 6 and 7th Grade/AM Session (Hadley). Students who are in the AM session can do their saliva test at home either on Monday night or Tuesday morning and return them to school. Students who are in the PM session should take their test on Tuesday morning before coming to school.

If we are unable to open our blended model in any of our schools, our plan is to conduct testing again after Winter Break to determine if it is safe to open our blended model.

Should my child participate in saliva testing if they recently tested positive for COVID-19 on a RT-PCR test outside of school?

According to the CDC, if a person has tested positive for COVID-19 and remains asymptomatic during this 90-day period, then any re-testing is unlikely to yield useful information, even if the person had close contact with an infected person. Based on the CDC recommendation, students should not participate in saliva testing for a period of 90 days from the time of their positive RT-PCR test done outside of school.

How can our families help?

Dr. Dworkin emphasized the importance of having a large rate (90%) of participation. The more participation we have, the more meaningful our results will be. Not only will we be able to identify our asymptomatic spreaders quickly and get them isolated, but our ability to make decisions will be enhanced by having a robust representative sample of in-person students and staff being screened. Dr. Dworkin compared participation with driving a car/looking through the windshield. Would you rather drive using 60% of your windshield or 90% or your windshield? Please consider signing up if you have not already done so.

The time has come for everyone to work together as one district and one community. The research is clear that screening/testing is a crucial mitigation strategy in navigating this pandemic. While the body of research is growing that suggests schools with robust mitigation strategies that are implemented consistently and with fidelity are not primary sources of transmission, the research is also clear that adults are more seriously impacted by the virus. A school is a community of children and adults and we must not forget that. We cannot teach the children without keeping our adults healthy and well. Stay safe, stay open are not just words. They need to be words that drive our choices, actions, behaviors, and decisions. There is no time to point fingers or cast blame. No one gains when energy is spent on those behaviors but everyone can gain if we commit to working together on the goal of keeping everyone safe so that the best teaching and learning can happen.