A COVID quick-test device. (Shutterstock)

As District 65 students have their last day of school Wednesday, school system leaders are already thinking about the possible impact of COVID-19 on the next school year.

Assistant Superintendent Romy DeCristofaro told a school board committee on Tuesday that the state has not yet said if it will pay to continue the SHIELD program that provided free COVID tests for students at school.

DeCristofaro said that District 65 administered more than 120,000 SHIELD tests in the current school year, with a positivity rate of only 1.01%.

“I’m glad we had” SHIELD this year, DeCristofaro said, “especially with so many unknowns.”

But she indicated that the attitude towards frequent testing may be changing, particularly if vaccinations are made available for children under age 5. (District 65 has a preschool program, and, of course, many older D65 elementary and middle school students have unvaccinated siblings below that age)

Health officials, DeCristofaro said, may be “starting to think about COVID like other communicable diseases,” which could mean fewer restrictions.

Of course, any COVID predictions always come with fine print.

“Things change every day,” DeCristofaro pointed out. So an expectation in June could be completely different by the time school begins in August.

The number of new positive COVID cases among District 65 students has been steadily declining over the past few weeks. There were 47 positives for the week ending June 7.

As of now, District 65 is not offering in-school COVID testing over the summer.

That’s different than Evanston Township High School, which is providing free, optional drop-in SHIELD tests for on Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through July 14.

Current students and staff are eligibile now, and incoming freshmen can start getting tested on June 16.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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