For Families » Pooled Testing

Pooled Testing

Beginning November 1, 2021, RSU #20, in conjunction with the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (Maine DHHS), will participate in Pooled Testing for both students and staff.  Students, Staff, Parents, and Caregivers will be provided with opt-in consent forms. 
Pooled testing is a voluntary, opt-in program: Students, staff, parents, and caregivers are not required to participate in pooled testing.  Students and staff who do not participate and who are identified as a close contact will be required to quarantine, which will result in a period of time away from school.
Participants in the testing program are tested every week.  The test provides the opportunity to catch the virus at low levels in an asymptomatic individual.  This allows the school to monitor participants closely, even after they have been identified as a close contact.  Those not participating in pooled testing, and who are not vaccinated, will need to quarantine if identified as a close contact.
Consent forms
Frequently Asked Questions
Pooled PCR testing is a more efficient way to test large groups of students and staff in schools on a weekly basis. Pooled testing involves collecting swabs from small groups of students, usually students in a class cohort or homeroom, placing the swabs in a common test tube, mixing several test samples together in a "batch" or "pool" and then testing the pooled sample with a PCR test for detection of SARS-CoV-2. If a pool results are positive, the individuals in that pool will need to be tested using a rapid antigen test called BinaxNOW. The positive individual(s) would then be sent home to begin their isolation period.
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No. Participation in pooled testing is voluntary. Students who do not participate cannot be barred from in-person learning opportunities solely because they do not participate, however those not participating in the program who are identified as close contacts will need to quarantine and be out of school for that period of time.
Yes. Funding will cover pooled testing processing services (e.g., test kits), transportation (e.g., courier and shipping costs), and additional logistical supports (e.g., specimen collection and site administration).
Pooled PCR Testing Protocol
Yes. Pooled testing is an effective tool to identify positive cases without the logistical and financial burden of regular individual testing.
Schools should maximize the number of students per pool. For classroom sizes greater than 25, split into two equal pools. Otherwise, each pool should be between 20 and 25 samples, unless a classroom size suggests otherwise (e.g., 16 students in a class).
Yes. Pooled testing is an effective strategy in areas with low transmission. With lower COVID-19 rates, there may be fewer follow-up tests. This can increase staff and community confidence in returning to school while incurring much lower costs than individual testing.
All laboratories allowed to process samples under the state-contracted Pooled Testing Providers have undergone a technical review of their pooling strategy and supplementary data by the ME CDC, DHHS, and DOE.
No, individuals who have previously tested positive (on an individual, not pooled, test) in the past 90 days should be excluded. After 90 days, they should be included again in the pools.
We encourage teachers and staff to participate in the testing even if they have already been fully vaccinated, though it is not required. There are several reasons why vaccinated staff should participate in pooled testing, including: While each vaccine authorized by the FDA is effective at preventing symptomatic infection, no vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccinated individuals may still get COVID-19 and transmit it to others. Our knowledge of vaccinated transmission is evolving. Recent evidence suggests that fully vaccinated individuals may be just as likely to transmit the virus to others as unvaccinated individuals.
No. As with all individuals in a positive pool, a fully vaccinated individual who is part of a positive pool should follow DHHS/DOE’s recommended protocols, which includes receiving a follow-up/reflex test (either BinaxNOW) but it is not necessary for that person to stay out of work (i.e., quarantine) before taking the follow -up test. The Maine Center for Disease Control (ME CDC) endorses its use in follow-up testing.
No. Staff and parent/guardian consent forms only need to be completed once a year (12 months) for participation in the program. These forms must provide consent to participate in pooled testing consent for any necessary follow-up tests, including administering and reporting Abbott BinaxNOW tests.
At this time, the pooled testing options associated with this initiative cannot be conducted at home. Pooled tests should occur in school and be administered or supervised by trained staff.
A school should not accept a one-time test to get out of quarantine. Testing options vary and some may seek molecular or lateral flow types of tests, which are not as sensitive as PCR in detecting COVID-19. Additionally, the student placed in quarantine was not tested at the time the positive case was identified, nor would they be tested each week moving forward; thus, a one-time test is not helpful in monitoring the student. It is possible that individuals who had COVID-19 (knowingly or unknowingly) but are no longer contagious will cause some pooled tests to come back positive, and every test has a chance of false positives. Symptomatic students should not attend school and should follow the school’s procedure.
Nasal Swab Self-Collection Instructions for Pooling
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Nasal Swab Self Collection for Pooling: Test Taker Procedure
FAQs for Families regarding pooled testing:
MDOE has released its Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) explaining how pooled testing adds a layer of protection for staff and students.  MDOE SOP:
MDOE also provides a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Maine's K-12 Pooled Testing Program: