May 26, 2021
Dear Staff, Students, and Families,
The Maine CDC has updated PK-12 and Adult Education Public Health Guidance and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Responding to a Positive Case in Schools. One important change in the guidelines affords for a way to eliminate the 3 foot distancing requirement in our schools and on our buses. Our participation in Maine Pooled PCR Testing would allow for this option. If we are able to get 30% participation in each school, the distancing requirements become recommendations in those schools, allowing us a full reopening in the fall.
Pooled Testing is a mitigation strategy used for early detection and identification of asymptomatic COVID-19 positive individuals. It is a simple process requiring the student or staff member to self-administer a quick swab of each nostril once a week. The swabs are collected and analyzed as a group, or a pool.
If a pooled sample contains a positive result, a follow up BinaxNOW rapid antigen test (quick nasal swab) would be administered to determine which individual would need to be isolated at home. This would prevent the high volume of close contact needing to quarantine responses that happened this year in all of our schools. Pool participants who are close contacts at school would not have to quarantine as they are being routinely monitored—far fewer students would be excluded from school because of potential exposure.
In order for us to be eligible to remove the distancing requirement, we need your assistance. The District will need at least 30% of the individuals in each of our schools to volunteer as participants in Maine PCR Pooled Testing. The greater the participation, the better our ability is to monitor for asymptomatic positive cases in our schools. Both unvaccinated and vaccinated students and staff may be included in the process. Though the vaccine is effective, there are occasional breakthroughs in which people may still become infected with COVID-19. Pooled testing is an effective strategy in areas with low transmission, such as ours. With lower COVID-19 rates, there may be fewer follow-up tests while adding a measure of protection for students and their families. Pooled testing offers both an effective strategy to limit transmission and further limit the number of individuals who have to quarantine.
Please take a moment to complete this brief survey:
We will use the information from this survey to plan for next year, with more information to follow about classroom pooled testing. Our ability to fully reopen and return students to in-person learning, five days a week relies on meeting 30% participation.
Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Superintendent of Schools