DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Many schools will be back in session in just six weeks, and schools across the state are taking a number of steps to keep kids safe this coming school year.
The Maine Department of Education is offering a pooled PCR testing program to any public or private school. It is a weekly program where students are grouped together and given COVID-19 tests. Each group of swabs is then placed into tubes and sent to a lab. The test results are returned within 48 hours. If a group's result comes back positive, those students are all immediately given rapid COVID-19 tests to determine who has the virus and needs to isolate.
The key to these tests is that they are able to detect COVID-19 before a person becomes contagious. Therefore, if a student tests positive for the virus, that student is the only student who needs to quarantine, not the entire class.
This testing program is currently being used at 11 schools for their summer programs, and more than 100 schools have already opted in for the upcoming school year.
If a school is using this program, parents have the choice to decide if they want their child to take part in it.
Courtney Arcaro, a school nurse at SeDoMoCha Middle School, is currently in charge of conducting the weekly pooled PCR tests for its summer school program.
“It’s faster, more efficient, and it's fairly easy for me instead of playing detective trying to find kids with symptoms who might need to be tested. Those who opt-in-everybody gets tested, so it's easier for me,” Arcaro said.
Emily Poland, School Nurse Consultant for the Maine Department of Education, said the state can also provide extra support and resources to schools that need it.
"It can be administrative support in the paperwork side of things, it can be hands-on help on the day of the pool testing program... so it's very flexible and can meet the needs of each school," Poland said.
For more information regarding Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks and how school pooled testing works, click here.
For more information from the State of Maine on the Pooled Testing Program, click here.