Morse High School and the Bath Regional Career in Bath are closing their doors through Wednesday after a series of COVID-19 cases  prompted the state to declare an outbreak. School officials say they don’t believe the virus is being spread on school grounds, and that the people who contracted the virus likely did so elsewhere in the community.

Superintendent Patrick Manuel announced the closure in an email to parents and staff Sunday afternoon, saying three cases had been confirmed over the weekend. That was in addition to three cases identified the preceding week.

“At this point, we are also monitoring several other possible positive cases,” Manuel wrote. “So far, we are still certain there is no in-school transmission as none of the cases are connected from in-school circumstances.”
Still, Manuel said the school would close so officials could investigate and ensure the infected individuals didn’t contract the virus in school.
Last Thursday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Morse High School and Bath Regional Career and Technical Center. The school had planned to stay open before the three additional cases were confirmed over the weekend.
An outbreak is defined as three or more cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period, according to the Maine CDC. The school will shed its outbreak status if no new cases are reported in 14 days.
In total, the school has seen 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases since school restarted, according to the district website.

Manuel said the Maine CDC reviews the school’s COVID-19 cases to determine if there were any close contacts. The Maine Department of Education or a school representative will contact anyone identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive.

RSU 1 includes Bath, Arrowsic, Woolwich and Phippsburg.

Morse High School is operating under a part-time, in-person learning model in which students are split into two groups that attend in-person classes on alternating days. On the days students aren’t in school, they complete remote work at home.

Bath Regional Career and Technical Center, which shares a building with Morse High School, was allowed to transition to in-person instruction four days each week last month, with Wednesday remaining as a remote learning day.

Manuel asked families to monitor themselves and their students for symptoms of COVID-19 and to call a health care provider if symptoms develop.

“We know that this closing is very difficult news for all of us,” Manuel wrote. “With vaccinations underway and the ability to be outside for various activities including spring sports, we all hoped we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, case numbers are still high in Maine, with the highest number of new infections among young people.”

Manuel urged students, parents and staff to wear masks, practice social distancing and use caution to avoid spreading the virus. Without those efforts, the sports season and an in-person graduation ceremony could be at risk, he said.

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