Evanston Township High School is looking into the possibility of testing students for COVID-19, something at least two other nearby high school districts are already doing.

Evanston/Skokie District 65 will provide weekly coronavirus testing starting in mid-September. “Opt out” is available by parental request. Otherwise, students will be included.

Both New Trier High School and the Glenbrook High School District are offering weekly coronavirus tests, with opt out possible. ETHS is not providing such tests, at least not yet, even though a testing program called SHIELD is available free of charge to school districts in the state. District 65, New Trier, and Glenbrook are all using that program, developed by the University of Illinois.

Glenbrook actually tested all students (besides opt-outs) during the first week of classes. As the school year continues, “unvaccinated students are strongly encouraged to take a test weekly,” the school’s website explains.

However, for Glenbrook students involved in athletics and certain other extracurricular activities, such as the performing arts, it’s not just “strong encouragement.” For those students, COVID testing is required for the unvaccinated.

In fact, any unvaccinated student who opts out is ineligible for extracurriculars.

COVID testing may be more significant in elementary schools than in high schools, because children under age 12 are not yet eligible for coronavirus shots.

However, the recent surge in delta variant cases is causing some districts to add even more layers of safeguards, such as testing.

The ETHS COVID dashboard shows a total of six new coronavirus cases out of more than 3,700 students since school began August 16. That same dashboard indicates 76% of ETHS students are fully vaccinated (based on last year’s total enrollment).

Interestingly, the staff vaccination rate is only 69% (using the most recent staff total from last year). The staff vaccination numbers are not broken down for teachers versus other staff. However, under a recent order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, all Illinois school employees will have to be vaccinated starting Sept. 5.

ETHS spokesperson Takumi Iseda tells Evanston Now that District 202 is “exploring options for COVID testing for students. Once we can determine the most timely and reliable process possible,” Iseda says, “we will inform students and families.”

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