Note: Recipient-submitted material; content authored by recipient, not ELC
Information current as of August 18, 2022

Contact their school-based screening testing program

Management structure for school screening

Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is responsible for all aspects of the ELC Reopening Schools award and provides centralized support for testing through their partnership with SHIELD Illinois. Districts that would like access to state supported weekly PCR screening testing must sign up with IDPH’s partner SHIELD Illinois. SHIELD and IDPH provide guidance, technical assistance, and staff to districts. IDPH also makes direct distribution of antigen tests to school districts.

Support provided to school districts

IDPH partnered with the University of Illinois and their non-profit testing organization, SHIELD Illinois. IDPH has agreed to fund SHIELD to provide their innovative saliva, PCR test “covidSHIELD” to all public-school districts free of any cost to the districts. This funding includes upfront funding to provide for the development of a lab network, Electronic Health Reporting infrastructure, and a scale up of SHIELD’s operational and technical assistance capacity to serve school districts. This funding also provides for payment to SHIELD for every test completed by their lab for K-12 screening testing. SHIELD provides the supplies, lab services, specimen collection staff or reimbursement, transportation, and resulting and reporting through their Electronic Health Record System. Schools can review their testing history and positives through an online dashboards and families receive results directly.

Since this program was announced in April 2021, IDPH began outreach to districts in partnership with ISBE and SHIELD. At the time, there was very little interest in K-12 PCR screening testing among Illinois school districts, as many districts felt implementing this was greater work for them than the value, based on their perception of the dangers of COVID-19 at the time. There was a widespread perception that “testing leads to more positives” which leads to more student quarantines and a reduction of in-person learning. However, through operational adjustments, quarantine, and close contact policy updates to leverage testing to increase in-person instruction, and a national shift in the perception and reality of the dangers of COVID-19, IDPH has been able to increase district participation from a few dozen districts in June to 324 districts.