On Sep. 14, ETHS released an announcement outlining new COVID-19 testing requirements and procedures for students. Although the targeted group of students being tested weekly is those who are either unvaccinated or have not submitted proof of vaccination, COVID-19 testing will be made available to all ETHS students who wish to utilize it. The new weekly testing is set to begin in mid-October. The testing protocol is part of ETHS’ efforts to prevent COVID-19 cases among students and staff members. To conduct the COVID-19 tests, ETHS is partnering with SHIELD, a COVID-19 testing program created at the University of Illinois. The SHIELD test is a saliva PCR test, which is a non-invasive and short process.
“SHIELD is actually a test that the State of Illinois is willing to pay for, and it’s the one [in partnership] with the University of Illinois,” Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said. “They actually even offer staffing to come to the school and administer the tests on the days that we’re testing, [and] take them to the lab.”
In the announcement released by the school, ETHS stipulated that the new COVID-19 testing is not mandatory for students, and those who wish to opt-out could fill out a form by Sept. 20. Testing is available to students at every grade level and is highly encouraged for unvaccinated students.
“We really want to be able to screen and test every student who’s not vaccinated with the idea that we want to protect them, and we want to protect everybody around,” Witherspoon added. “Fortunately, we have minimal students who are opting out, saying ‘I don’t want to be tested’ if they’ve been given the opportunity.”
Although ETHS maintains that testing is on a voluntary basis, students who wish to participate in any extracurricular activities and sports who are unvaccinated will need to have a negative weekly COVID-19 test in order to participate and will not be able to opt-out. Students who have already submitted proof of vaccination and participate in an activity will not need to show proof of a negative test as of right now.
“I think it’s important that, at least, [COVID-19] testing is required at ETHS because ultimately it keeps everyone safe. Testing increases one’s awareness of themselves and how they could potentially put someone at risk,” senior Jackie Okereke said.
In addition to requiring a negative COVID-19 test from unvaccinated students in order to participate in extracurricular activities, ETHS will begin requiring students to show proof of their vaccination record or show proof of a negative test in order to attend or participate in certain school activities and sporting events.
Included in the initial email sent to students and families, ETHS COVID-19 testing will be a non-invasive saliva PCR test conducted in partnership with the University of Illinois SHIELD testing program. While some details have not been made available to students and families yet, ETHS explained that testing will be held once a week on a designated day where any student can get tested for free. The school will conduct the weekly COVID-19 tests during school hours and will not require students to make any appointments in order to participate.