Return to School Plan – 2020-21

Plan Materials:

Current Items:

Sharing our work (weblinks):

On-Site Point of Care COVID-19 Testing:

Since building and launching our on-site testing program in October, Gower School District has worked to help other school districts bring various forms of testing solutions to their communities. The process used to bring about this program has been made public through a partnership with the Illinois Association of School Administrators in the form of a statewide webinar (12/7) and follow-up podcast (12/14). Gower has also hosted a number of small group presentations for school administrators in DuPage and other areas across the state. The process developed in Gower has also been shared with a a number of school boards through the Illinois Association of School Boards (1/14). 

Testing Overview in Gower

Our on-site testing program has had some early success. Being able to quickly identify and isolate cases through point of care, diagnostic testing is a huge benefit to our school community. A number of school districts are following our lead and attempting to bring diagnostic testing and/or screening to their districts. We are aware that other districts have started or are considering a COVID-19 surveillance programs for their districts. To be clear, our testing program is not surveillance-based and it does not depend on an outside lab or analysis. We have diagnostic capabilities at each of our schools and are using rapid antigen tests (nasal swabs) to determine if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is detected or not in about 15 minutes.

Our program is absolutely scalable and replicable for others and may just be the perfect next step for schools looking for a way to expand in-person learning. Feel free to share with friends/family in other school districts that may be unaware of the program we have in place. We have made an effort to make our work public through our Return to School webpage to provide full access to every part of the process, including tips, key learnings, and copies of our original documents, an Illinois Association of School Administrators webinar (12/7), a follow-up podcast (12/14), a DuPage regional presentation for fellow superintendents (12/28) and in a presentation hosted by the Illinois Association of School Boards on Jan. 14. The early success of our program is testament to the hard work and dedication of the Gower staff and community and we are happy to share and help as many other school districts as we can. As we know first-hand in Gower, Community Problems Require Community Solutions.


To summarize the testing options currently available in Gower:

  • All of the point-of-care COVID-19 tests offered at Gower are administered free of charge. Strategic and responsible use of school funding, including additional federal funds received as a response to the global pandemic, allows our program to be offered as an added benefit to our school community. 
  • The Antigen Tests being used in Gower (AccessBio CareStart or Abbott BinaxNow) are rapid, point-of-care tests for any symptomatic staff or student (via parent consent), and/or close contacts that opt to take it. Parents that have selected a remote learning option are able to contact their respective school office and schedule a time for an antigen test to be administered. Additional antigen screening usage (symptomatic individuals and/or known close contacts) is also being carried out on a limited basis. Antigen tests are best used shortly after the onset of symptoms and do have limitations involving asymptomatic cases. However, as an extra precaution, individuals (students or staff) identified as a close contact to a school case are also able to request an antigen test as we understand the importance of being able to identify positive cases quickly and follow subsequent IDPH Exclusion Guidelines. Furthermore, the recent CDC Guidance for Expanded Screening Testing to Reduce Silent Spread of SARS-CoV-2 are clear that K-12 school settings are to be considered for increased testing from a screening perspective that may include asymptomatic individuals in areas of high community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • The Antibody Tests being used at Gower are rapid, point-of-care tests are generally used to detect a past COVID-19 infection and not used to diagnose a current infection. They are being offered to all staff for one-time evaluation or for more regular screenings. These tests are also being offered to students (via parent consent) that have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have completed their period of isolation (post-infection). 
  • (NEW) COMMUNITY EXPANSION: After the success of our 4-day Winter Break on-site testing program, our COVID-19 Testing Staff is expanding our on-site testing program. Beginning next week, we will offer drive-up COVID-19 Antigen Testing each Tuesday at Gower West and each Thursday at Gower Middle from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m at the school main entrance (look for our tent). Tests are available to individuals in the same household as our Gower students/staff, free of charge, and are being used as part of a diagnostic (symptomatic individuals) and screening (asymptomatic and/or known close contact) approach. This is a proactive and added measure that we are taking to best support and serve our school community. It does not replace, in any way, the important relationship that any of our families have with their primary healthcare provider. No appointment is necessary and our School Nurses will administer the tests directly at the vehicle window. Results from the nasal swab rapid antigen tests are available in ~15 minutes. 
  • ALSO AVAILABLE TO OUR GOWER FAMILIES: We are working with an off-site partner, Ambry Genetics, and using their at-home, saliva-based test kitsThese rRT-PCR tests are done by a person adding their saliva into a vial, labeling the vial, and placing the vial along with a copy of an insurance card into a package with pre-paid postage for off-site analysis. We believe these tests can be particularly useful over winter break and may be part of a solution for a reduced quarantine period for close contacts. Parents and Guardians are encouraged to contact Ms. Laura Kriha in the District Office at 630-286-4929 or at lkriha@gower62.com to complete the registration process. These tests are limited. If you are interested in picking up a kit or multiple kits, please reach out to us. 
  • PREVIOUS COMMUNITY EXPANSION: Recent Gower Graduates (high school and college students)! Yes, you! If you are in need of one of the above COVID-19 tests please contact us at Gower West or Gower Middle and we would be happy to help. We know many of you are home and have siblings at Gower. When we were asked you qualified, the immediate answer was, Yes. Go Gladiators!
  • PREVIOUS COMMUNITY EXPANSION: Recent conversations with local law enforcement officials in Willowbrook and Burr Ridge have allowed us to offer the same tests above to our police officers that work so hard to keep all of us safe! We have always viewed our first responders as an extension of the Gower Family and happy to expand our testing program to include them.

As previously stated, “On-site testing is a part of the solution. It’s certainly not the only answer and although it may not be a fit everywhere, this process is actionable, replicable and scalable to fit any district ready to press ‘go’. On-site diagnostic testing is something that we have been willing and able to do to continue to take steps forward and make a positive impact during a challenging time. We understand the importance of being able to identify COVID-19 infections quickly in an effort to help control the spread of the virus. Our testing program is now recognized as part of a more comprehensive community-based solution. We are sharing some of the tremendous load that has been and continues to be placed on our health care system and we expect to continue to be able to do so for the foreseeable future. Community Problems Require Community Solutions. – Dr. Victor Simon


We’re in This Together! 


View THIS LINK for a testing flowchart which can also be found on the CDC website here.

Deprivatizing our practice and sharing what we have learned:


The IDPH Interim Guidance on Rapid Point-Of-Care Testing for COVID-19 in Community Settings and Schools shared on ISBE’s site 10/28/20 is an excellent resource. Furthermore, the following CDC web resources are helpful for those looking for the ‘why’ in terms of testing on site in a given school district.

Gower has gone a step further to completely deprivatize the practice used by sharing all documents/templates, key learnings, and important takeaways and considerations from our Superintendent, Dr. Victor Simon, for public consumption. Contact vsimon@gower62.com directly to inquiry about putting the IDPH guidelines into action. Items are shared with no claim of importance or accuracy beyond a willingness to deprivatize our practice and share some of our early successes and promising practices. The process is replicable and scalable and can be turned around, from start to finish in a matter of a 2-3 weeks depending on how aggressive of a timeline is followed.


Yes, it’s a lot and the ‘will and skill’ part of the equation emphasized in the 12/7 IASA webinar can’t be ignored. Again, and directly from the Interim Guidance on Rapid Point-Of-Care Testing for COVID-19 in Community Settings and Schools shared on ISBE’s site 10/28/20: The benefit of the POC tests in schools and other community settings is that the results may be used to expedite isolation and quarantine requirements and to inform infection prevention and control measures, thus preventing transmission. Additionally, rapid testing can allow students to return to school and community members to work more quickly if their test results are negative. 


Our district does not maintain a separate ‘dashboard’ for COVID-19 cases currently in isolation or quarantine. We have found that individual families in our community may select to self-quarantine for their own personal reasons and may or may not share that information with us. This alone is an important limitation to self-built dashboards and we want to take every step to avoid giving the wrong impression about COVID-19 case data in our school district. We report every known case to the DuPage County Health Dept. and carry out contact tracing to determine who, if anyone, was a school-related close contact and needs to be quarantined. We also archive each of those cases under our Community Newsletter tab here which have been recently revised to include current counts of active positive cases and active close contacts (provided that the aggregate is >5). We also make sure to let each close contact and/or positive case know that they have a responsibility to follow the guidelines related to quarantine or isolation. Where a local school dashboard might give some indication of currently known cases, we believe they fall short being able to capture community data as well as the two examples below do. COVID-19 spread is not limited to school district boundaries which is why it is important to be mindful of individual actions and responsibilities that could have a greater impact on the larger community. Furthermore, we do try to follow IDPH standards for the Collection, Disclosure, and Confidentiality of Health Statistics which report aggregate values by zip code that are >5.


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