Schools to offer teachers and staff COVID-19 tests

BAR HARBOR — Testing for COVID-19 is to begin in early December for teachers and staff throughout the Mount Desert Island Regional School system who do not have any symptoms of the disease, and testing will continue through the school year.

Participation in the asymptomatic testing program will be voluntary for the roughly 450 school employees. Superintendent Marc Gousse said the program will start with the testing of as many employees as possible.

“That will establish a baseline,” he said. “From there, we will do weekly sentinel testing with a group of about 100 individuals, which will allow us to see if there is any evidence of community spread [of the coronavirus] into our schools.”

Gousse said in a letter to school employees on Tuesday, “The next two weeks will be used to finalize logistical details, train key personnel and conduct informational sessions for staff.

“This testing program will be at no cost to district employees, insurance or any impact to current school budgets, as it is being paid through grant funding and generous community donations.”

Gousse said the testing program for the remainder of this school year will cost about $38,000. It is being funded in part by a grant secured by Mount Desert Island Hospital. The Jackson Laboratory has provided some test kits and other support.

“We are really, really fortunate,” Gousse said of local support for the testing program.

At this point, no one knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last or when an effective vaccine will be widely available.

“I don’t see COVID going away anytime soon,” Gousse said. “So, I am going to put $80,000 in the (school system) budget for next fiscal year to cover the entire cost of asymptomatic testing for employees.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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