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Lewiston School District to provide COVID-19 testing

The Lewiston School District will begin providing testing to staff on Tuesday.

LEWISTON, Maine — The Lewiston Public School District will open a COVID-19 testing site at the middle school. School officials say the goal is to collect more data so they can open their schools to in-person learning.

The district switched to remote learning last week following nine positive COVID-19 cases across the district.

RELATED: Lewiston Public Schools go fully remote this week, pointing to winter break gatherings

While the students are at home, school officials are working to find ways to get kids back in school full time.

"The value of in-person teaching and learning far outweighs the remote option," Lewiston Superintendent Jake Langlais said. 

That's why the Lewiston School District is working with St. Mary's Medical Center and Community Clinical services to provide COVID-19 testing for anyone who works in the district.

"We need data. We need to know where we stand, what are our staffing levels, how many people are available," Langlais added.

The district is beginning with staff but hopes to open it up to students and even provide vaccines at the same site when the time comes.

The testing site will offer both PCR and antigen, or 'rapid' testing.

"It depends on clinical decision making," Coleen Elias said. Elias is the CEO of Community Clinical Services which partners with St. Mary's Medical Center.  

The testing site is being funded by a grant awarded to St. Mary's for the purpose of expanding testing.

"We've been looking to find a way to make good use of those funds," Elias added.

Some private schools have been providing testing to students, but Elias said this is the first public school district to provide such testing. She added that school re-entry is going better than many officials expected.

"Children are really good at social distancing and wearing a mask," she said. "They're used to following rules."

Testing is set to begin on Tuesday while students are still remote, all testing will be done at the middle school.