January 8, 2021
To Our District 115 Families:

Good afternoon and Happy New Year!

I am writing to follow up on outcomes from last night’s Lake Forest Community High School District 115 Special Board Meeting. In my report, I presented updates from the Lake County Department of Health, news on access to COVID-19 vaccines, the latest on our work with the District 115 Metrics Advisory Council, progress on our plans to recommence e-hybrid, in-person leaning, COVID-19 testing, and reopening costs to date. A recording of the meeting in its entirety may be found here.

Key Meeting Outcomes
Lake Forest High School e-hybrid, in-person students (all grade levels) will return to the building on Tuesday, January 19, following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, as planned. The Board thoughtfully deliberated regarding mandatory COVID-19 testing for these students during the second half of the 2020-2021 school year and determined the following:

  • LFHS students who have selected e-hybrid, in-person learning are committing to participating in mandatory COVID-19 gateway testing with a negative result before returning to the building on January 19.

  • Thereafter, voluntary COVID-19 testing will be made available by the District to students and staff free of charge.

  • COVID-19 testing will also be mandatory for students participating in moderate- to higher-risk athletics as defined by the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Current IDPH/ISBE winter athletics guidance may be found here. Athletic Director Mr. Tim Burkhalter and Director of Safety and Security Mr. Lane Liner will work together to plan this testing program and communicate details in the next week to ten days. More information regarding our current LFHS Winter Athletics plan may be found here.

Next Steps on Mandatory Gateway Testing
As reported at last night’s meeting, we currently have about 55% of our students who have opted for e-hybrid, in-person learning. Most of those students are already registered for COVID-19 testing next week.

Registration for participating LFHS students is available here. The testing schedule is as follows:
Those who register are encouraged to complete their consent form prior to arriving at the field house for testing. A link to the consent form should be included in your confirmation email and in an email reminder.

If a student is experiencing any new symptoms the day of their scheduled test, please do not come to the Field House. Instead, please report your symptoms on the LFHS screener and contact your healthcare provider directly.

What Kind of Test?
Some families have asked about the type of test that will be used in January. We will use the Abbott BinaxNOW test. BinaxNOW is an EAU-authorized, rapid diagnostic test for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 antigen. This rapid test is self-administered (under observation) with a nasal swab and less invasive than the nasopharyngeal test most commonly associated with COVID-19 testing. Details on the BinaxNOW test may be found here.

Why is Gateway Testing Mandatory?
We want to open Lake Forest High School on January 19, and keep it open. Just as we know that washing hands, watching our distance, and wearing a mask are very effective ways to mitigate risk, we also know that testing works.

We have received questions from the community regarding our authority to require COVID-19 testing for e-hybrid in-person students. Under the Illinois School Code, school districts have the authority to mandate viral tests for students just as we require current health, dental, and vision examinations. The School Code also gives Illinois schools the authority to make operational decisions to protect the health and safety of those in our building. Members of the community have also asked about CDC guidance indicating that school testing should be offered on a voluntary basis. While we respect the CDC, we see no credible basis for its conclusion and are not legally obligated by it. 

Filing for an Exception
Allowing exceptions increases the risk that an asymptomatic student could spread the virus to other members of the school community, putting both their health and in-person instruction at risk. Families may request an exception from the mandatory gateway testing requirement that will be reviewed on an individual basis. This includes requests for alternative tests and test providers. If you would like to learn more about this process or have other questions about COVID-19 testing, please send an email to covidtestinginfo@lfschools.net

We look forward to welcoming so many of our students into the building on Tuesday, January 19, and ask for your continued commitment to our mitigation efforts in an effort to keep our doors open and maintain continuity of learning for our students.

Michael V. Simeck