PARIS — November proved to be a tough month to keep students in school as multiple positive cases of COVID-19 popped up throughout SAD 17.

First several students at Otisfield Middle School had to self-quarantine after two positive cases of the virus were reported there.

Guy E. Rowe School in Norway, then Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and Paris Elementary School all had to close to in-person learning after outbreaks were investigated at those schools. Ultimately, the spread of the virus within any of the schools was only detected at Rowe, which saw more than 70 students and staff restricted to quarantine at home and a dozen confirmed cases.

Oxford Elementary School also had to close, not because of a high number of cases, but because a number of staff were exposed to an employee in a meeting who later tested positive. The school did not have enough available teachers and substitutes to hold in-person learning and had to revert to distance education.

Although proper social distancing and face covering protocols were followed at OES, the Maine CDC guidelines state that anyone in proximity to an ill person for more than 15 minutes in an indoor setting must self-quarantine.

As of Monday, Dec. 1 all schools in the district were able to open. But the struggle against community spread continues to affect its ability to protect its schools.

A confirmed positive case of COVID-19 of a teacher at OHMS has led to a growing number of students and staff having to quarantine. There was a total of 60 kept out of that school as of Dec. 2.

Quarantine numbers have again increased a bit this week at OHCHS as well, although there were only two confirmed cases when the doors reopened to hybrid learning on Monday.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the necessity for self-quarantine can be attributed to exposures during the Thanksgiving break.

“The latest cases of the virus were traced to families with college-aged children returning home for the holiday,” Colpitts said. “People are getting sick outside of our schools. So far we very fortunately have been able to mostly stop COVID-19 at the door and keep it from infecting students and employees within.”

SAD 17 provides a daily report of virus cases and exposures on the district’s website at http://www.msad17.org/. The chart can be viewed by clicking on “District Quarantining Numbers” on the right side navigation bar.

“We all have to be prepared to switch from in-person learning at any time,” Colpitts said. “Community spread continues to increase.”

One scenario from rising cases in Oxford Hills might be for elementary school students to enter pods for morning or afternoon hybrid learning. OHMS and OHCHS have been in hybrid mode since early October; in the event cases spike and in-school spread is detected those students would move to total remote learning.

 

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