by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (October 5, 2021) – In terms of COVID, says Principal Jake Gourley, “You’re probably safer walking the halls of TF South than you are walking through a grocery store.” Thanks to a voluntary weekly COVID testing program at the school, Gourley has the numbers to back that up.
Known as SHIELD Illinois, the program uses a screening test designed by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. According to an FAQ sheet posted by SHIELD Illinois, the test requires a small saliva sample, and it targets specific COVID-19 markers.
Gourley confirmed that taking the test is completely voluntary. It is offered weekly, and anyone who wishes can be tested. He estimates that 300 students were tested in the first two weeks the program was offered. Only 3 tests came back positive, for a 1% testing positivity rate. The positivity rate in Lansing at large is 4.54% at the time of this writing.
“We’re constantly on the kids about the masks,” said Gourley, referring to regulations from the Illinois State Board of Education that require masks in schools, in line with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gourley and other TF South leaders work to ensure that constituents not only wear masks, but wear them in accordance with guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health: “A face mask should be well secured and cover your nose and mouth. The face mask should allow for breathing without restriction. There is no requirement to wear a hospital grade mask or other specific type or brand of face covering. You may wear a homemade face mask, provided that it fits closely and covers your nose and mouth.”
TF South also offers incentives to students who get vaccinated. By showing their vaccination card, students can choose to receive either a $10 Walmart gift card or an “All In” T-shirt that grants free admission to all home, regular-season athletic events as well as a free pass to Friday’s away football game at TF North, plus one free concession item there. Additionally, TF South has a “vaccinated-only” Winter Dance planned for December 11 that only fully vaccinated students will be allowed to attend.
TF South High School is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois.