COVID-19 Saliva Screening FAQ
Elmhurst District 205 is entering into a contract with SafeGuard Screening, LLC to provide weekly COVID-19 saliva screening to students in Grades 6-12 participating in in-person learning and extracurricular activities. Samples will be collected at home and returned to school for lab screening. The primary goal of the screening program is to allow for more consistent in-person instruction for students by serving as a more accurate way to assess the risks of reopening and by lessening community spread. In order to achieve this goal, the program must have high levels of participation from students and staff and is mandatory for students in Grades 6-12 participating in in-person learning and extracurriculars.
What is the purpose of weekly COVID-19 screening?
The screening program has several goals, including:
Reducing school closures and quarantines and allowing for more in-person instruction.
Identifying potential cases of COVID-19 in the school population early, reducing transmission.
Driving down overall rates in our community by alerting those who may need to isolate before they show symptoms.
Providing a family and personal benefit for participants of knowing their current COVID-19 status.
Studies have shown that weekly screening programs have driven down transmission rates in the areas they cover. Right now, the main way D205 has to assess the risk of COVID-19 coming into our buildings is by looking at metrics for the D205 community (where students live and socialize). With weekly screening, we would have a more accurate assessment of COVID-19 rates and risks on campus, providing an extra layer of reassurance for providing in-person instruction in addition to the many safety measures already in place.
Who will participate?
Students in grades 6-12 participating in on-campus instruction and athletics or other extracurriculars will participate. Students are more likely to be asymptomatic when positive than adults.
The vast majority of School District staff (approximately 90% of our staff) have already received their first COVID-19 vaccination and are in the process of receiving their second shot, rendering saliva screening unwarranted.
When does screening begin?
Screening will begin the week of March 8, 2021.
Does my student have to participate if they are in an on-campus athletic or extracurricular program?
Yes. D205 requires any student coming on campus for athletics, performing arts, or activities to be enrolled and participate in the weekly screening program.
Can my student participate if they are fully remote?
At this time we are offering screening only to students who are coming to school in person either for hybrid learning or for extracurricular activities. If your student is currently fully remote but you anticipate they may switch to hybrid learning or participate in an in-person sport, screening will be offered when your student enrolls in an on-campus opportunity.
Can the rest of our family participate in this program?
Due to cost and lab processing constraints, only students who will participate in on-campus learning or extracurricular programs may participate.
Does my child have to participate in the screening process even if they have previously recovered from COVID-19?
Yes, screening is a requirement for all students in grades 6-12. False positive screenings due to a recent recovery from COVID-19 will be individually addressed. If for any reason that a screening returns positive, D205 will highly recommend that families reach out to their medical provider for confirmation.
Here are some additional points from those individuals who have already been impacted by COVID-19:
Screening is still necessary
Currently, we do not know whether someone who has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 can still transmit the virus
The amount of time that someone has protective antibodies to COVID-19 is not well understood
While RT-PCR testing may stay positive for several weeks, the saliva screening is unlikely to be positive since it is less sensitive, and saliva is less likely to carry virus as a part of the shedding process
Do I need to pay for the screening?
The screening will be provided free of charge to students and staff. The District will cover the cost of the program, which is approximately $11 per sample.
What does the screening involve?
Students/staff will receive kits including small tubes, plastic baggies, unique bar code stickers for the tubes, and instructions for collecting saliva samples at home. This is a quick process that involves spitting into a tube and then putting it into a bag and sanitizing the bag before returning it to a drop-off box at school. Names are not included with the samples. Samples should not occur within 30 minutes of eating or drinking.
When do I have to collect and drop off the saliva sample?
Students should prepare a sample once each week before they are scheduled to come on campus. Samples should be dropped off upon arrival at school before 10 a.m. A specific schedule for Screening and dropoff will be established based on student attendance schedules.
Who screens the samples?
SafeGuard Screening, LLC will provide screening services. The company uses an RT-LAMP surveillance screening process that was adapted by Dr. Ed Campbell and is being used at his local school district, LaGrange District 102 as well as in other districts such as New Trier. While the screening is non-diagnostic, it has not produced any false positives to date. More technical information about the process can be found in the Board documents from the November 17 Board meeting.
Is this screening like the "rapid" tests I have heard about?
D205's screening is a molecular screen, not the less sensitive antigen tests often used at rapid testing facilities. D205's screening uses RT-LAMP technology, a well-developed and well-researched RNA amplification process. While D205's screening is considered non-diagnostic because samples are collected at home and processed in a lab outside of a medical facility, this type of screening has been validated and used worldwide for its accuracy and sensitivity.
Where can I find out more about LAMP screening and its use in the detection of COVID-19?
These scientific research articles provide more information about LAMP testing:
In addition, the FDA approved an at-home test on November 17, 2020, that also uses LAMP technology. It is not exactly the same as D205's screening but does use the same RNA amplification process:
When and how are results delivered?
Samples are dropped off at the lab in the morning, and results will be available by early evening. The lab informs school health personnel of any bar codes that produce a presumptive positive, and those health personnel then will look up the bar codes, inform those families/staff, and advise them to isolate and seek a PCR test from their doctor or a state testing center. Students/staff who receive a negative screening result will not receive any notification.
What is the likelihood of a false positive screening?
According to our provider SafeGuard Screening, LLC the response protocols are different depending on several factors, so issues such as false positive screenings due to a recent recovery from COVID-19 will be individually addressed. However, the vast majority of detected cases are ultimately confirmed through highly recommended, additional testing through a medical provider or state testing facility, according to SafeGuard.
Is there a risk of false negatives? How significant is that risk?
There is no test that has no risk of false negatives. This screening method is extremely effective at identifying individuals with the high viral loads that are thought to drive the spread of COVID-19. The sensitivity limit of the screener does not pick up all cases from individuals with very low viral loads, but increasing scientific evidence suggests that people with these very low viral loads do not spread the virus to others.
What happens if I receive a positive screening?
Anyone with a positive screening will be advised to isolate and immediately contact their doctor or a state testing center to schedule a PCR test to confirm the results. The student screening positive will be excluded from campus for a 10-day period unless they are able to produce a negative PCR test. All siblings and household contacts of the student who attend school or work in District 205 SD will be required to stay home until the PCR test confirms or clears the saliva screening result. If a PCR test is not completed and the 10 day option is chosen, the siblings and household contacts will be required to quarantine according to IDPH guidelines at the time. Importantly, quarantining of other students in the classroom/school/athletic environment who may be close contacts will not occur based upon the saliva screening. Quarantines will only occur after a student has tested positive on a PCR test.
Importantly, quarantining of other students who may be close contacts will not occur based upon a screening. Quarantines will only occur after a student has tested positive on a PCR test.
How will you protect the privacy and DNA of samples of participants?
Samples are provided with a bar code label that does not include a name. If there is a presumptive positive result, the lab will inform our school health personnel, who will look up the bar code and contact the family or staff member. The lab is not provided with any names of students or staff. The lab also will immediately destroy samples and will not keep any records related to students through the usage of a commercial medical waste provider. Regarding SafeGuard's specific approach to sample disposal please click here.
Will participant data be published?
Individual data will not be published. The District may publish aggregate data in terms of number of screens given and number of presumptive positive results. Samples are destroyed after screening, and SafeGuard Screening is not keeping any records related to our screening program.
Will screening replace other safety measures at the school?
This screening does not take the place of school's health and safety measures such as mask wearing, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning -- all measures that already make the risk of in-school transmission very low. Instead, it is an additional tool that can help ensure asymptomatic individuals do not come to our campuses and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the community by identifying individuals who may have COVID-19 before they show symptoms and potentially transmit the virus to others.
How have the results of this screening been validated?
This is the same screening being administered at University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Colorado, New Trier High School, Glenbrook North and South High Schools, Stevenson High School, and LaGrange elementary schools. The results of this screener have been validated in studies published by the University of Wisconsin, University of Colorado, and many international institutions. The experience in LaGrange District 102 has also validated these results, as all individuals identified with a "finding of potential clinical significance" have subsequently tested positive in a diagnostic PCR test.
What are the legalities surrounding schools and mandatory COVID-19 screening?
D205 remains committed to supporting our parents with information about the implementation of COVID-19 screening in grades 6-12. The screening program is intended as one part of the District’s overall safety protocols that includes masks, social distancing, cleaning, and other mitigation strategies to maintain a safe environment for our school community. It is our position that under Illinois law, the District can require COVID-19 screening as a condition for students to attend school in person.
At this time, D205 is proceeding with the plans that are currently in place in order to meet the school community’s expectation that all students have the opportunity to be in school five days a week, receiving as close to a full day of in-person instruction as possible.
Is there an appeals process?
Parents who want their student to participate in hybrid instruction but object to their student participating in the screening program should submit a request by email to D205 Assistant Superintendent Christopher Whelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The student will be assigned to remote learning pending the outcome of the meeting.