Note: Recipient-submitted material; content authored by recipient, not ELC
Information current as of October 6, 2021
Management structure for school screening
Maine CDC is contracting and in regular communication with vendors that provide technical assistance, staffing, PCR and antigen tests, and pooled testing reports to K-12 schools. Maine CDC is also providing technical assistance for school reporting, Q&A sessions for school administrators, and guidance for school testing implementation, as described in the school standard operating procedures. Schools, districts, and summer camps can enroll in ELC testing programs through either the Maine CDC or Maine Department of Education (DOE) websites.
Support provided to school districts
Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Maine DOE implemented a pooled PCR testing program, which became available to any K-12 school administrative unit, public or private, starting in May 2021. Pooled PCR testing is an efficient way to test large groups of students and staff in schools on a weekly basis. If a pool result is positive, the individuals in that pool are tested using a series of reflex tests (may be antigen or PCR) until positive individuals are identified. The positive individual(s) would then be sent home to begin their isolation period. Maine CDC provided a guidance document to school administrators about the pooled testing program, diagnostic testing, and requirements for involvement.
Considerations for pooled testing:
- Staff and students who are in second grade and above are encouraged to self-collect pooled testing samples under appropriate supervision and at the discretion of the trained observer. There are instances of children younger than second grade who are also able to self-collect; however, this is following a period of instruction and hand-over-hand guidance. Self-collection limits the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) required for testing administrators and enables testing to be done more quickly, reducing the impact on student learning time. Swabs must be collected with individuals at least six feet apart, as masks will briefly be partially lowered during collection. Collected specimens are delivered to approved laboratories via same-day delivery, and results are returned within 24-48 hours. Results may be returned by the pooled testing vendors’ software platform during non-school hours. It is the expectation that testing coordinator will review results and implement protocols during normal business hours.
- Unvaccinated students and staff participating in the pooled testing program who are identified as a close contact of a confirmed or probable school-related case, regardless of whether the case is a member of the identified positive pool, do not need to quarantine so long as they are enrolled and participating in the pooled testing program. These individuals should remain in school and continue to participate in the weekly pooled testing program. However, any unvaccinated student or staff member who is not participating in Maine’s pooled testing program and/or is unwilling to get follow-up testing as part of a positive pool and is identified as a close contact of a confirmed case will need to quarantine for 10 days.
- All school staff and students who submit consent forms are strongly encouraged to participate in weekly pooled testing. This includes contracted staff such as bus drivers. The only exception is that any individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days should be excluded from pooled testing. Currently, individuals working outside of the school are not eligible to participate.
- Districts should determine pool size based on several factors, including current community/school transmission levels of COVID-19. Because the cost and logistical advantages of pooled testing are dependent upon a relatively low portion of pools being positive, schools in communities with high incidence, or schools that have seen a high proportion of positive pools in previous weeks, should consider lowering their pool size after consulting with Maine CDC and Maine DOE. The maximum number of swabs per pool is 25.
- “Membership” within a given pool should remain as constant as possible. Teachers should be pooled with their students because a positive result on a pool full of teachers or staff may cause staffing constraints while each staff member gets individually re-tested. If districts or schools strongly prefer to create pools comprised exclusively of staff, they are limited to a maximum of 5 swabs per staff-only pool and must have tests available for immediate follow-up testing.
- All students and staff participating in the pooled testing program should be pool-tested once a week – no more and no less. Testing all students and staff once per week may require multiple testing days each week.