LEWISTON — Due to unexpected logistical challenges, the Lewiston School District will begin pooled COVID-19 testing for students and staff later than expected.

Superintendent Jake Langlais previously said he hoped to begin testing Monday this week. However, staffing delays and test shortages have led the district to push its timeline back.

Langlais said he expects it will begin either next week or the following week.

“Initially, we had been under the understanding that (Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks) was going to be providing medical staff to help facilitate these (programs) in our schools. As they looked into their staffing patterns and schedules, they were not able to fulfill those roles by that Sept. 20 start.”



The company is contracted by the state to provide staffing and testing services to the pooled testing programs in Maine schools. As many as 710 public and private schools can enroll in the program funded by federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Langlais said medical personnel are available now. They have met with school staff and began walk-throughs in the schools this week to plan how they will implement the program.

Additionally, a shortage of rapid tests in the state means that schools have been encouraged to keep testing pools smaller than 10 people each. State guidelines say pooled groups can normally contain up to 25 people.

Originally, Langlais said they expected to be able to group students by classroom. However, the new guidelines complicated their process of assigning groups because some classes will have two groups instead of one. The schools are planning to keep groups consistent week-to-week.

These and other challenges have led the Lewiston School District to plan on rolling out the testing program a month after the start of the school year.

A major proponent of the pooled testing program is that participants who are exposed to COVID-19 at school will not need to quarantine unless they have symptoms of the virus.

“I think we’ll see an increase in participation when someone gets told their child has to go home for 10 days,” Langlais said. “Unfortunately, we can’t fix that in the moment. It’s when they return that they can join the pool testing.”

The Auburn School District will also launch a pooled testing program, however likely not for another month.

Last week, the school board voted to approve a revised reentry plan, which included a pooled testing program and a universal masking mandate for students in prekindergarten to sixth grade.

Superintendent Connie Brown said the district has applied for a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certificate of waiver and is waiting for their confirmation number, which is necessary to complete the next steps in implementing the testing program.

The certificate of waiver will allow Auburn schools to administer COVID-19 tests in the schools.

Members of the Auburn school community can expect to receive more information about the pooled testing program next week. She estimates that testing could begin in mid- to late-October.

Pooled testing is an efficient surveillance method for COVID-19. The program’s goal is to identify students and staff with COVID-19 early to prevent outbreaks.

Students and staff within participating school districts are able to opt into the pooled testing program; it is not mandatory.

Participants will swab each of their nostrils four times. After, they will place their swab in a group tube.

Medical personnel will then scan the barcode on the tube and record the number of swabs inside.

Schools will send tubes to the laboratory for testing by FedEx. Parents and staff will then be notified of the result by the school.

According to a document with frequently asked questions from the Maine Department of Education, test results will be available within 24 to 48 hours “in almost all cases.”

If the test is positive, each of the people in the group will receive individual rapid tests to identify who is positive for COVID-19.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.