During an unfolding pandemic, we’ve now learned, it never hurts to have the director of a hospital lab sitting on your local school board.
Although it probably never occurred to him that those skills would be brought into play to help ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff in LaGrange-Brookfield School District 102, Brookfield resident Ed Campbell put on his lab director’s hat in August when he learned that there was a rapid-testing program that could be adapted to serve his school district.
As a result of Campbell’s initiative and District 102 officials’ encouragement, the school district, which serves parts of LaGrange, Brookfield and LaGrange Park, now tests students and staff weekly.
The tests are a bit different in that they provide school officials with indicators of the virus’ presence, giving them an opportunity to identify someone who maybe an asymptomatic superspreader and then having that person get a true COVID test to confirm the finding.
In places, like schools, where virus transmission is so easy and predictable, a testing program like this would seem to be essential and might have been something that could have been rolled out nationally had there been any federal leadership during the pandemic.
Instead, it has fallen to happenstance – hey, we’ve got a lab director on our hands, let’s figure something out – for important solutions to be initiated.
The good news is that District 102 is open to partnering with other local school districts, offering its testing lab to them at a cost of $11 per test, to have their students and staff tested regularly.
Riverside District 96 appears to be mulling the opportunity, and we encourage them to follow through. Any school district with ample cash reserves – you know how they call it a rainy day fund? Well, it’s raining – should consider using a portion to test regularly until we finally get our national act together and find effective treatments or a vaccine against COVID-19.
If staff and student safety is paramount, as we hear all the time, then this is another way to protect those people and, by extension, their families from this virus. Yes, local school districts are taking precautions – checking temperatures, disinfecting classrooms and surfaces, limiting in-person interactions, mandating face coverings and doing what they can to get kids to maintain physical distance.
Those are great, but we have already seen cases of COVID-19 in schools. There are no reports yet that transmission has been from student to student, but once that starts happening the in-person learning experience will cease to be viable.
Just last week, District 96’s superintendent announced at a school board meeting that as a result of recent COVID-19 cases, 47 students and 10 teachers had been told to quarantine.
We’re fortunate that District 102 just happened to have an Ed Campbell on its school board. Without that coincidence, our local schools may not have had such a tool at their disposal.
But, the fact is we do, so let’s take advantage of another way to ensure the safety of the community.