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Maine Loosens Covid-19 Safety Protocols For Schools Participating In New "Pooled" Testing Program

Wearing a mask and face shield, teacher Elizabeth DeSantis helps a first-grader during reading class in September at Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Conn.
Wearing a mask and face shield, teacher Elizabeth DeSantis helps a first-grader during reading class in September at Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Conn.

Schools that participate in a new "pooled" coronavirus testing program from the state will no longer be required to keep students three feet apart.

According to newly updated guidance from the Maine Department of Education, the routine pooled testing of asymptomatic students and staff will allow for "early identification and isolation" of cases, making classrooms safer.

School officials hope the program makes it easier for some schools to bring more students back into the classroom.

Steve Bailey, with the Maine School Management Association, says schools are still looking at the logistics of the testing program, including who would administer tests to students each week. But he says the new guidelines could make it easier for some schools to bring more students back next year.

“I think people are planning for, how can this help, and how can we make this work in the fall? As opposed to right now,” Bailey says.

The DOE says that three-feet distancing won't be required at schools with at least 30% of staff and students participating in the program.

Under the latest guidelines, six-foot distancing will continue to be required when students are eating and drinking in school. Bailey says these rules continue to make it difficult for districts to find enough space to bring all students back in-person.

“And even then, some people aren't able to bring everybody back, because of that. If that gets changed, that will be huge," Bailey says. "But time will tell."

The pooled testing program is available to be used by any school and will be offered through the next school year.