SCARBOROUGH — The Scarborough School District, and other districts throughout the state, have the option to provide COVID-19 testing from the Maine Department of Education, but the administration said that all pros and cons will be weighed first.

On Oct. 1, Superintendent Sanford Prince said that he wanted the public and Board of Education to be aware that the option was available.

The Maine Department of Education announced that rapid testing for K-12 schools would be available to districts beginning Oct. 9, but districts that want more time to make a decision may do so, said Assistant Superintendent Diane Nadeau.

Currently, “if a student or a teacher feels that they have the symptoms, they have to arrange to go and get tested outside of the school system,” said Prince.

With rapid testing in schools, students, with consent forms, would be able to take a nasal cotton-swab test, if they feel they have symptoms, he said.

Tests would be provided through the Abbott Labs BinaxNow rapid testing kids, Prince said.

Board member Nicholas Gill said that he had at first been concerned about rumors regarding accuracy, but when he researched the subject, he found that Abbott Labs is reporting a 97.1 percent sensitivity and a 98.5 percent specificity.

“Those numbers are very encouraging and it’s exciting to see the Maine Department of Education get this into the hands of our districts,” he said.

Nadeau said the kits would be provided through the federal government.

“I know there are many questions that are circling around, not just here in Scarborough but throughout the state, in regards to making sure we could do this safely and not put our nurses at any greater risks,” she said. “But I think some of the things that are still questions need to be thought through, which is why we haven’t taken a position on this yet — would be in regards to standing orders, because nurses operate under a certain license, how this fits under their scope of practice and their ability to diagnose because they would be making the decision as to when they felt a student should receive a test and if there would be any liability around that.”

She added, “I think those are really important issues for us to take into account as we also look at the benefits.”

A positive COVID-19 case was discovered at Scarborough Middle School, but in a letter to families on Oct. 8, Prince said that there hasn’t been any other positive cases.

“Our school nurses at Scarborough Middle School, Patty Bolduc and Amanda Eason, did an amazing job and we are forever grateful for how they, school administrators, staff, and the larger student and parent community responded,” he said. “Planning for many potential eventualities will be our life for the time being and we will do our very best day-by-day. As of today, we have not had any additional cases of school exposure and yet we remain mindful that the situation in which we find ourselves is tenuous at best. Our ability to pivot at any time bracing confrontations that are before us offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. We must remain hopeful and march forward knowing this pandemic COVID-19 will pass and learn from such negative and perhaps positive experiences that it has brought forth.”

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