The HERO Project

Adelaide Parker

Last week, after months of online and hybrid education, West reopened its doors—this time, on a permanent basis. For the first time in over a year, West students are allowed to attend in-person classes for the entire school week, a significant step forward in the process of reopening. However, although this is an important achievement, West’s ambitious new format has left students and teachers alike with concerns over the transmission of COVID-19, sparking discussion among the student body and inadvertently placing students and their families at risk.

         In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus and keep West students safe, administration has partnered with the University of Utah’s Utah Health, Economic, and Recovery Outreach (HERO) Project to set up a routine COVID-19 testing program for West High students.

The HERO Project is a project aimed at gaining a better understanding of COVID-19 infection rates in Utah. It uses randomized COVID tests to provide early testing to volunteers, assessing the risk of COVID-19 within Utah’s high schools and communities. HERO Project testing provides a much more accurate depiction of COVID-19 cases in Utah than other testing centers or projects: testing not only those with COVID-19 symptoms or recent exposure, but the rest of the population as well. This allows the HERO Project to obtain accurate data while using a relatively small sample size, and to detect asymptomatic cases early on, stopping the spread of COVID-19 at its source.

Since the HERO Project was established this past winter, it has partnered with three of Utah’s school districts—including West’s own Salt Lake City School District—to bring fast and reliable testing to high schools around the state.

On Wednesday, March 3, the HERO Project carried out its first round of testing at West. Student volunteers were asked to meet at 8:00 a.m. in the Commons, where they answered an online questionnaire, replied to a few preliminary questions, and received a COVID test. Results were then cataloged in a HERO Project app – allowing both administration and individual students to track West’s COVID-19 cases in real time.

The HERO Project is no longer performing testing at West, but project leaders hope to resume their efforts in Salt Lake City’s schools and in local communities sometime in the near future. To find out more about the HERO Project and future testing dates, visit

Although returning to school contains some risk, with the proper testing and analysis, the spread of COVID-19 can be slowed down. With the help of initiatives like the HERO Project, West High’s staff can take the precautions needed to protect West students and teachers from the threat of COVID-19 – ensuring every West student access to a safe learning environment both now and in the future.