PERU — About 60 students at Dirigo Elementary School are expected to enter COVID-19 quarantine, according to Regional School Unit 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen.

“There are currently around 60 students out (of school) at Dirigo Elementary School,” because they are close contacts of three positive cases of COVID-19 among students, Doyen wrote in an email Thursday.

The affected students are part of two separate classrooms at the elementary school.

At T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield, there are five positive COVID-19 cases and 11 students who are close contacts, while at Dirigo High School in Dixfield, there is no one out of school due to coronavirus cases, Doyen’s email said.

Last month at an RSU 56 school board meeting, the board of directors voted to make mask-wearing optional at its schools. Seven directors based their vote on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Education’s recommended guidelines, which include indoor masking for everyone in schools but not making it mandatory. Three directors voted in opposition.

The RSU 56 Board of Directors voted to go with the CDC’s “strongly recommended” mask-wearing guidance. The Maine Department of Education and Maine CDC mandate that when a positive case is confirmed, close contacts tracing will be completed. Close contact is defined as within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period or any physical contact when unmasked with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“Without universal masking, we are concluding that students within a classroom would be considered a close contact as it is highly improbable to believe that they were not within 6 (feet) for 15 minutes during the day or had not had some level of direct physical contact during the school day,” Doyen wrote in her email.

According to a Dirigo Elementary School post made by Principal Charlie Swan on social media Wednesday, those students affected by coronavirus will quarantine for 10 days and return to school on Sept. 20. The quarantined students were also notified that remote learning will start for them on Friday.

Another post on Dirigo Elementary School’s Facebook page Tuesday said that students’ families would be notified using the district’s “alert now system,” an electronic calling system, regarding quarantine advisories for students. The post also said that families should monitor their children for sickness and that students should stay home if they are sick.

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