UNION — The Regional School Unit 40 Board of Directors voted Sept. 16 to maintain the current safety protocols in place, while Superintendent Steve Nolan investigates pooled testing. This allows high-risk activities to continue at the schools despite high transmission rates.

Parents, board members and RSU 40 staff spoke in support of continuing these activities, which include football, chorus, band and the fall musical.

Nolan said he sought guidance from multiple sources about the cancellation of these activities, which is recommended by some organizations in counties with high transmission.

Nolan said he could find no other schools that were considering cancelling or limiting these student activities.

Athletic Director Matt Lash spoke in favor of continuing the activities.

Lash said he fully supported Nolan, and understood Nolan was trying to do what was best for the district without clear and direct guidance. However, RSU 40 may be the only district in the state considering cancelling football.

Cancelling these activities would negatively impact student grades and would not mitigate much of the risk of transmission, he said.

Medomak Valley High School Principal Linda Pease said music, band and drama teachers at the high school were implementing extra precautions beyond the recommendations to keep students safe while continuing to teach. These include social distancing and special masks that allow students to play instruments.

Brooke Simmons, a board member from Friendship, made the motion to continue current safety measures while Nolan moved forward with pooled testing.

Board Member Matt Speno from Union suggested the motion should be more definitive, perhaps with an actual date for Nolan to start testing. He also said he wanted to see letters go home to families that informed them pooled testing would be happening.

Nolan said he did not have a specific date for when this could happen, though he hoped it could be available by the end of the month. They were still waiting for the tests to arrive, and for staff to be trained in the process. Letters would be going home to families about pooled testing, though.

The district did not apply for pooled testing earlier because it was not a strategy recommended for areas with low transmission rates of COVID-19.

Student Services Director Karen Brackett said the tests arrived earlier that day and were in the health office.

Nolan described pooled testing as a strategy to collect group samples and test them as a group for COVID-19. If the larger group tests positive, then the individuals in the group are tested.

This strategy will be open to all students and staff in the building and is voluntary. Nolan will be checking with legal advisors about if the district can require pooled testing for the high-risk activities.

Pooled testing is part of the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s guidance.

The motion passed unanimously.

In other business, Business Manager Karen Pike spoke about vandalism on district property. She said there are cameras, and the police have been contacted.

Pike said some people may feel vandalism is not a big deal, but it costs the district time and money, and now they have playground equipment they cannot use.

Facilities Director Brian Race reviewed work that was completed over the summer. This included new parking lots, windows and general repairs in district buildings.

The board approved new teacher hires. Mark Phillips was hired as a music teacher at Friendship, Prescott and Union Schools. Sandra Prock was hired as an interventionist at Miller School.

The next RSU 40 Board of Directors meeting is Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.