New Trier High School, just outside Chicago, chose a lab without the right qualifications to track covid-19 at its campuses, offering a lesson in what happens when educators are asked to take on public health responsibilities, reports the New York Times.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged school administrators to implement regular testing of students in order to identify coronavirus outbreaks before they become more widespread. Late last year, New Trier, which serves families from some of Chicago’s most affluent suburbs, rolled out a $1.3 million testing campaign, part of an ambitious plan to keep classrooms open for the school year regardless of rising infection rates in the community.

Administrators made testing mandatory for all 4,000 students on the school’s two campuses. But the school chose a lab that had not been certified to run a testing program of its kind, led by a scientist who was not qualified under federal guidelines to run a diagnostic lab. The saliva test the lab used was neither vetted nor authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

The test relies on a widely used technology, but a study describing its uses has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal nor validated by independent experts. According to federal guidelines, the assay should not be used to identify potentially infected students.

New Trier may have inadvertently violated federal regulations on testing, and the Illinois Department of Public Health opened an investigation into the lab.

Read more in the New York Times

Featured image: Yellow lockers at a high school. Photo: © Wisconsinart |