PARIS — SAD 17 continues its efforts to keep COVID-19 outbreaks from Oxford Hills schools. But unfortunately, it requires an aggressive response that includes ongoing quarantines and quickly adjusting to remote learning when necessary.

Lately, distance learning has been a consequence of staff shortages more than active cases. With three staff members at Guy E. Rowe School in Norway and three at Oxford Hills Middle School entering quarantine, both of those schools were rendered short-handed enough that they had to close and go fully remote.

At Rowe, the switch was compounded with one person receiving a positive virus diagnosis last Friday after interacting with “pod members” at the school. Over the weekend another person tested positive, meaning that the disease was transmitted within Rowe’s walls. According to Maine’s Center for Disease Control, three positive, connected cases constitute an outbreak that would force closure anyway. But Superintendent Rick Colpitts does not anticipate further spread.

“Rowe has now had two cases of the virus being contracted at the school,” he said. “But it is actually a success story because those are the one instances. Staff and administrators have done an excellent job of keeping it out of schools.”

As of Monday afternoon, SAD’s17 reported 105 students at Rowe had to quarantine along with its three staff members.

Oxford Hills Middle School’s north campus in South Paris also had to close Monday because of a staff shortage. It reported one positive case traced to community transmission that forced 40 students to quarantine.

The only other positive case in any of the district’s schools is one in Waterford, due to community transmission.

Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, which went remote in the aftermath of frozen pipes bursting and flooding the B Wing, has been remote since last Monday because of that. About a dozen classrooms were damaged and cannot be used until cleanup, moisture remediation and repairs are done.

All three schools will remain remote the rest of this week. Next week all schools will be closed for winter break. Colpitts anticipates that Rowe, OHMS and OHCHS will reopen on Feb. 22.

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