As Moline High School remains on temporary closure due to COVID-19, school board members Monday approved purchasing up to 1,500 rapid tests for staff use with the hopes of mitigating needed quarantines.

Superintendent Rachel Savage told school board members Monday night the decision to temporarily close Moline High School was not taken lightly and reflected an abundance of caution.

The district announced Sept. 26 that the high school would temporarily close for two weeks, from Sept. 28 through Oct. 9, due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases. Savage said the district made this decision at the recommendation of the Rock Island County Health Department as a measure to reduce further spread. Other district buildings, including Coolidge Campus, remain open.

According to the district website, the district has had 24 cumulative cases since the start of the school year among staff and students. Savage said 19 cases have been reported in the last 14 days, with 14 of those cases among staff and students of the high school. Contact tracing, she said, indicated more than 100 staff and students of the high school should quarantine as a result.

Savage said the district took action when positivity rates indicated safety could be compromised. She said the district remains committed to transparency and staff and student safety. She commended high school leadership for swiftly executing established protocols.

Savage said the closure to stop further spread and the thorough cleaning provided by the “awesome custodial staff” will hopefully position the high school to reopen to students for many weeks of in-person learning.

“At this time, we’re thankful we’re not seeing spikes at the elementary and middle school,” she said.

Board members Monday were asked by administration to approve a purchase of 1,000 units of Elysian Rapid Antigen Test kits for COVID-19 for an expected cost of $22,075. Instead, board members approved an amended motion for the purchase of 1,500 tests at an expected cost of up to $33,000. The district will use CARES Act funding for the purchase. Officials said test kits could arrive by Oct. 30.

Savage called the tests “non-invasive, spit tests” that will not be required of staff, but will be offered as a resource.

“It’s a free tool in the toolbox to keep those staff in person, if that’s the avenue they choose,” she said.

Savage said if the district's contact tracing process identified a staff member had potentially been exposed, that individual could choose to go home for a 14-day quarantine, go to a medical provider for testing and return upon a negative result, or choose to take the district’s test and stay at work if they received a negative result.

District documents state registered school nurses of the district would receive training to administer the tests and would be able to read results in an average of 15 minutes. Board members said they were interested in expanding the order for the test kits because the kits require no refrigeration and they have a two-year shelf life. Savage said test results would be placed in a staff person’s medical file, not their permanent employee file.

“And a majority of those folks had zero symptoms, zero positive results,” Savage said of those at the high school who contact tracing indicated quarantining was necessary.

With a hopeful eye toward the future, school board members Monday also approved booking the TaxSlayer Center for a May 30, 2021, commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 at a cost of $14,096. Board member Andrew Waeyaert voted against the contract.

COVID-19 forced the district, like others in the area, to cancel its 2020 ceremony. Savage said the $5,000 deposit the district paid for the cancelled 2020 ceremony rolled over to the 2021 event. She said the district would work with the TaxSlayer if health conditions again force the cancellation of commencement.

“This just gives us all something to hope for,” Savage said.

In other business, board members:

– Approved a $30,000 change order for increased costs for improvements at the Allendale parking lot. District documents state the expenses stems from the additional work needed to stabilize the parking lot base due to poor soils under the existing pavement. The project, by Centennial Contractors, now has a total project cost of $206,265.

– Approved insurance agreements for a number of policies, including the renewal of group health insurance and group insurance premiums for retirees. Chief financial officer Dave McDermott said the retiree rate increase reflects the smallest rate increase in multiple years.

– Heard from McDermott that the district’s attempt to sell a property next to Hamilton Elementary by auction was not successful. The district will now market the property with a realtor.

– Approved a number of board policy updates.