Harper details thinking behind COVID-19 student testing program

‘We hope to help families determine their child's status much quicker than before’


ROCHELLE — Rochelle Schools Superintendent Jason Harper said the districts’ new onsite COVID-19 student testing program ran about 15 tests per day after starting last week. 

The optional testing program is located at May School and is designed for symptomatic students or staff members who want to clear themselves to return to school with a negative rapid test. Harper thinks the site will administer more tests as the weeks go by. 

“We anticipate this number will most likely go up as the typical cold and flu season ramps up during the late fall and winter,” Harper said in an email. 

The districts plan on testing Monday through Friday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. as long as they have the resources to run the program. Hours could change based upon resource availability and changes in testing hours will be posted on the districts’ Facebook pages.

Once a child has received a negative COVID-19 test and they are symptom-free for 24 full hours without medication, they can return to school. 

Parental written consent is required for testing. The school districts use BinaxNOW COVID-19 antigen tests that they’ve received through the Ogle County Health Department. The rapid test is a nasal swab that is inserted roughly one centimeter into the nose. Test results are texted to testees. In many instances, test results come back within 30-45 minutes.  

“Through our partnership with the OCHD, we continue to have access to free BinaxNow tests,” Harper said. “We continue to work with the OCHD to ensure our district has enough free test kits to continue our local program.”

Harper said other schools like Rochelle have gone in different directions and some do not offer onsite rapid resting and some offer testing in other ways that meet their specific community needs. 

The districts are not required to provide onsite testing for students and staff and chose to offer it on their own. Harper said in his original release about the program that he hopes it will not only decrease student absences, but also help students and staff take another step towards normalcy in the school year. 

The state is allowing school districts to participate in a “test to stay” program. Following an indoor exposure, with the exception of a household exposure, if schools test close contacts on days one, three, five and seven from date of exposure, a child can remain in the classroom as long as they test negative. 

Harper said that so far, the test to stay program has allowed students to return to the classroom more quickly than in the past.

“Depending on the situation, we also do rapid tests for students who experience a symptom while at school during the school day,” Harper said. “In providing increased access to rapid tests, we hope to help families determine their child's status much quicker than before.”