BAR HARBOR — Three schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System – Mount Desert Elementary, Tremont Consolidated and MDI High School – have already begun welcoming some students into the buildings for the first time since they closed in March because of COVID-19.
All the district’s schools are to be open for in-person learning next Monday, Sept. 28.
The decision on when and under what circumstances to open is being made by each school principal in consultation with Superintendent Marc Gousse.
The schools had planned to do widespread testing of teachers and staff who had no symptoms of COVID-19, but that plan has been put on hold, based on the advice of area health experts, Gousse said in a letter to parents on Monday.
“The vigilance and effort of our community to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is phenomenal, such that we have one of the lowest positivity rates in the state of Maine,” he said.
Given that low rate, along with the need to preserve testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), he said, “Local medical professionals and health experts have recommended the school department…test asymptomatic staff if we start to see a substantial increase in the community positivity rate.”
Gousse said school officials will continue to monitor that rate “to ensure that we are prepared and flexible to implement an asymptomatic testing program if and when needed.”
He said the schools also will continue to work closely with The Jackson Laboratory, MDI Hospital and the Downeast COVID-19 Taskforce in the effort “to keep our community healthy and safe.”
Heather Jones, chairman of the school system board, said that launching a testing program for school personnel who do not have COVID-19 symptoms would be quite costly.
“And we feel comfortable not having such a program just yet,” she said.
Even so, the hospital and the school system are applying for grants to help pay for widespread asymptomatic testing, should that be deemed appropriate at some point.