The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Whitehall Ledger 

Board approves voluntary rapid antigen test


December 9, 2020

The Whitehall School Board of Trustees voted last week to approve BinaxNOW, a rapid antigen test for COVID-19. The use of the tests is voluntary for both students and staff.

During a presentation, School Nurse Mary Beth Hunter stressed this is not mass testing, it is not asymptomatic testing, and it is not mandatory. She added a parent has to come in and sign a release and a staff member also has to agree to the testing

School Nurse Krista Glaus told the board the rapid tests would allow them to get results in 15 minutes at the school, rather than having to wait 2 to 14 days. She said that a student who has come to the office with any number of symptoms would have their parents called to pick them up and with permission, they could offer the test swab in the school sick room. She added the students would be sent home immediately after the test and they would call them after 15 minutes with the results.

Hunter said the test they are doing is very efficient and their goal is to not eliminate quarantine or exposure, but it is to decrease exposure.

"We have to figure out how we can decrease the exposure and quarantine time," she said.

Glaus reported the test has an 80 to 85 percent accuracy rate and has to be done administered within the first seven days of symptoms, adding they don't want to be a testing site for everyone, and this is not for parents who have a kid who has been sick for a week and coming into the nurses so they can get swabbed.

Both nurses are also eager to get the information from the testing, and the two will be conducting contract tracing within the school. Hunter told the board they are currently relying on students and parents to tell them if they are getting testing and also relying on the county for quarantine information and stressed the importance of being able to get this information from the rapid tests that would be administered onsite.


A large majority of Whitehall Elementary School students are attending school onsite, while the numbers look a bit different in grades 6 to 12.

At the school board meeting last week, K-5 Principal Kurtis Koenig reported currently 80 percent of their 198 students are going to school onsite, while the other 20 percent are doing remote learning.

6-12 Principal Melissa Robbins told the board the numbers in the middle school are 65 percent attending full time onsite, 28 percent doing full-time remote learning, and seven percent participating in hybrid learning.

In the high school, Robbins said 42 percent of students are attending onsite full time, 36 are participating in the hybrid model, and 28 percent are opting to do full-time remote.

Koenig told the board that during the COVID/Thanksgiving closure of campus they checked out a total of 46 Chrome Books and only two students requested paper copies of their work.

"The students were able to take advantage of the resources we have available and I think that's great. It's good for the students to know we have those things, and the students have access to them," he said. "At the end of the day, we prefer to be onsite. Nothing can substitute the teacher being in front of their class, but the circumstances required us to do something different. The protocols we have in place now are as effective as we could hope."


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