Regional School Unit 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean discussed the idea of offering rapid coronavirus testing to students and faculty at the Oct. 26 Board of Directors meeting.

Some board members expressed frustration at how long it took to receive virus test results after students and faculty were tested. The district recently had several people test positive in two of its schools in conjunction with an outbreak at Brooks Pentecostal Church.

McLean said she received confusing information from the state and several sources regarding a presumed positive case at Troy Howard Middle School that later was determined to be negative.

Board member Caitlin Hills said she and other people she knows who have been tested received results in 18 hours and she does not know why it is taking so long for some students and faculty to get their results. In the meantime, presumed positives are treated as confirmed positives until a second test is completed and comes back negative.

McLean said she had asked the Department of Education if the district was allowed to conduct rapid testing for those who volunteer. The department told her it is not an option any other district is considering at this point, but did not object to the idea.

It is likely that there would be more cases if students and faculty had not been following coronavirus mandates closely, she said. Board member David Crabiel reiterated her sentiment, saying the small number of cases is a testament to how well the guidelines are working.

Ames Elementary School is still closed until Nov. 2 because of a virus case, but McLean said students are much more responsive to remote learning now compared to last spring, with a 95% virtual attendance rate.

Board members asked McLean why Ames was closed, but Capt. Albert W. Stevens School was not. She said the decision was because of Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of "close contact," but could not go into more specifics for reasons of confidentiality.

DOE last week reduced the reopening status of school districts in all of Waldo County to yellow, which indicates that schools are only safe for partial reopening. It is the only county in the state currently in that category. The department’s decision was in response to the Brooks church outbreak.

Board members took no action during the meeting to implement rapid testing in the district, and it is unclear if McLean will take further action on the idea. Currently, there are 60 Waldo County cases associated with the Brooks church outbreak.