LISBON — Lisbon School Committee members on Thursday unanimously voted to move students in PreK through grade 8 to full in-person learning starting Monday, Feb. 22.

The students impacted are at Lisbon Community School, Philip W. Sugg Middle School and Gartley Street School. Students there have been learning through a mix of in-person instruction four days a week and remote learning on Fridays.

Because students at those schools are already attending school four days a week, Superintendent Richard Green said it should be an easy transition to full in-person learning.

Green said Thursday the school department has been watching the number of local COVID-19 cases closely.

“As of this morning, we currently have nine active cases in both Lisbon and Lisbon Falls which is a significant decrease from where we were just two weeks ago,” Green said.

Lisbon is located in Androscoggin County, which the Maine Department of Education had designated as yellow in its color-coded health advisory system, suggesting that that the county had an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread.

Last week, the county was changed to green, indicating the county has a “relatively low risk” of COVID-19 spread.

“Androscoggin, Franklin, Oxford and York counties have seen dramatic drops in their new case rates and positivity rates for the past two weeks, and are now aligned with other counties,” the Maine Department of Education states in a Feb. 12 statement.

The department noted that over the last 30 days, the rate of new COVID-19 cases is 36 per 10,000 staff and students, compared to 81 per 10,000 people statewide.

There had been 185 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Lisbon and 171 cases in Lisbon Falls as of Feb. 14, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Statewide there had been 43,090 cumulative confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases reported and 4,659 cases in Androscoggin County as of Wednesday.

The Portland Press Herald reports that the seven-day average of daily new cases has been dropping and stood at 145 on Wednesday —four times lower than the peak seven-day average of 625 daily new cases reported on Jan. 15.

Green said Lisbon High School will continue with its current mix of in-person and remote learning for a week and transition to four days of in-person learning on March 1. He said the high school may be able to return to full in-person learning after an additional week or two.

Lisbon School Department opened its schools fully in-person in September 2020. The school didn’t offer a remote-only option for students because Green said the school didn’t have enough staff or resources to teach in-person and remotely.

The schools began using a mix of remote and in-person learning in December when COVID-19 cases began to spike.

School board member Kathi Yergin said she believes the school district is bringing kids back safely by increasing in-person instruction incrementally.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to enjoy the ending of their senior year and everything,” she said. “I’m all for taking it one week at a time.”

Green said the Maine Department of Education is providing COVID-19 tests for schools to use, which will allow Lisbon School Department to test staff potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 and get results with 15 minutes at the central office.

Maine has purchased an additional 250,000 rapid COVID-19 tests for distribution to schools as a way to continue in-person learning while they await vaccinations for teachers and staff, the Portland Press Herald reported Tuesday.

“That should help with the number of staff that have to be out and give us a quick result,” Green said.

The school department applied to the state for the test kits Wednesday Green said, adding he hopes there will be a quick turnaround.

The State Department of Education’s designation change for the county also means students can compete in sports again, Green said.


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