Community Letter: Pooled Testing Information 9.12.21
September 12, 2021
The District is keeping up with all the latest information and recommendations from the CDC/Maine Department of Education/Maine Department of Health and Human Services in order to make the best programming and safety decisions for our students and staff. The purpose of this correspondence is to gather feedback from parents or guardians on the topic of pool testing.
For those unfamiliar with pool testing, it is one of several strategies the Maine CDC/Maine Department of Education recommends as one option for school districts to address/manage COVID-19. Below is an overview of pool testing followed by a brief survey. Pool testing is complex so we would appreciate you taking a few moments to gain a better understanding of what it entails prior to completing the survey. Please complete the first two questions of the survey even if you are not interested rather than leaving it blank. Thank you.
What is pooled testing?
Pooled Testing involves doing ONE COVID test on multiple (think classroom or cohort) samples. Students swab themselves, once a week, and place their individual swabs in one tube or container.
The samples are sent out of district, to a local lab, and results are expected within 24-48 hours.
If the result is NEGATIVE, we can be confident that there are no students in the group positive for COVID-19 at that time of testing.
If the result is POSITIVE, we know that at least one person in the group is positive for COVID-19 (next steps detailed below).
Is student participation required?
No, participation is optional.
Will teachers/staff be participating?
Yes, if they choose to.
Is there a cost to families associated with this testing plan?
What are the benefits of pooled testing?
It is an important public health surveillance tool to assess levels of COVID in our community (schools).
It can identify pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic individuals. These are people who are not aware that they have a COVID infection.
It will decrease the need to quarantine whole classes/cohorts.
What happens if there is a positive in the “pool”?
If a positive result shows up in a particular pool, all participating students in the cohort/classroom will be tested using the BinaxNow antigen (rapid) test as soon as possible after receipt of the positive pool result. This test will be administered at school, by school personnel, and typically would happen by 48 hours after the pooled test.
If there are any students in the cohort/classroom who are not participating in pooled testing, they WILL need to quarantine and be considered close contacts per the Maine Department of Education and CDC protocols.
What happens when the rapid COVID test is administered?
Participants who test negative will NOT need to quarantine as close contacts. Participants who test positive will need to isolate per Maine DOE and CDC guidelines the same as they did last year.
If ALL rapid tests are negative, the rapid test will be repeated the next day.
How will students be identified?
Student names will not be included on the pool sample. The tube/container is associated with a classroom or cohort, not individual students.
Students will be identified privately for results from the follow-up rapid test.
If interested, should my student participate even if fully vaccinated?
Yes, there is always the possibility of breakthrough infections.
Can my student participate if they have had COVID?
Yes, if the COVID infection was more than 90 days ago.
Pooled testing in an optional strategy to gather information on case rates in a given classroom or cohort. The process occurs after parents/guardians sign up their students to participate in weekly testing. Testing occurs one time per week and results are sent back to the district within 24 to 48 hours. Students, regardless of age, would swab themselves. Teachers, or other school personnel, would support students with the process as far as blocking out time for testing, follow up, and assisting with ongoing organization. School personnel would be following up on any positive cases and communicating with families.
Below is the survey which will help the district gauge parent/guardian interest in pool testing as one mitigation strategy.
Thank you for your patience and support and please expect more communication from the district and/or school level as we move closer to the start of the school year.