Community-wide COVID-19 testing to delay in-person classes to Jan. 10


Midway staff

The start to a new testing protocol will delay the start of in-person learning following winter break to Jan. 10. The rest of the school year remains unchanged.

William Tan, Assistant Editor

In-person classes have been delayed to Jan. 10 following new university guidelines to implement weekly COVID-19 testing for all students and employees, according to a Dec. 28 letter from Laboratory Schools Director Tori Jueds. The rapid spread of the omicron variant is affecting how some classes are conducted as well as sports and other community activities.

With no in-person learning, faculty and staff will engage in professional development planning online. Middle and high school students may still receive homework from their teachers.

The enforcement of a weekly testing system called SHIELD will ensure a stronger COVID-19 mitigation effort and a more effective tracking system.

During the week of Jan. 3, all students and employees regardless of age or vaccination status are required to receive two rounds of saliva-based COVID-19 tests. For high schoolers, Jan. 4 will be devoted to a first baseline test, and the first round of weekly surveillance testing will begin on Jan. 7. Weekly testing will continue every Friday until March 4. 

Students and faculty who test positive for COVID-19 during the baseline test do not need to participate in the first surveillance test. Anyone who has tested positive in the last 90 days also does not need to participate until 90 days have passed since their last positive test.

The tests will be administered in Kovler Gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 4 and Jan. 7. Students will be assigned times based on last name.

If a student is new to the SHIELD system, a parent or guardian must accompany them to their respective baseline test to sign a consent form. Students over the age of 18 may fill out their own consent forms. 

Parents who are unable to accompany their child to testing can send a signed copy of the consent form. Students and faculty who are unable to travel to campus for testing may submit a negative PCR test taken the same day from a local pharmacy or doctor’s office.

In addition to the delay of in-person classes and the implementation of weekly testing, Lab has modified the availability of academic activities and school-wide events to slow the spread of the virus and create a safer school environment. 

During the week of Jan. 3, all athletic activities including physical education have been canceled. Afterward for six weeks, PE classes will prioritize moving outdoors or holding limited, low-exertion activities indoors.

Regarding music classes, all choral singing classes will proceed with masks in the tent outside Gordon Parks Arts Hall. However, wind instruments in band class will not be used for the next six weeks. 

School-wide events such as Connections 2022 and the Employee Winter Party have been postponed to an undetermined later date. Senior Class Retreat is still scheduled to occur from Feb. 10-12 with extra precautions.

Director Jueds is confident that the new COVID-19 mitigation strategies will slow down transmission rates and provide a safer school experience for all students and faculty. However, she urges all members of the Lab community to continue wearing face coverings, now with the recommendation of a KN95 mask instead of just a cloth one. These will be distributed for families at testing during the week of Jan. 3.

Lab community members over the age of 16 can also get their COVID-19 booster shot and all members are encouraged to receive the vaccine. The vaccine and the booster shot will play a critical role in keeping the school safe.