On average, staff working in central school district offices in Androscoggin County are the least vaccinated in the state, at just 42.7% fully vaccinated, according to a Maine Department of Education dashboard published this week.

Central office staff — not staff in schools — in Franklin County and Oxford County are on average 75.1% and 53.8% vaccinated, respectively.

Central office staff for Lewiston Public Schools has the third lowest vaccination rate in the state for individual school districts. Just 19.1% of staff there, or 58 out of the 304 staff members have completed their inoculation series.

The two districts with a lower vaccination rate than Lewiston have small central office staff.



Neither of the two staffs for Perry Public Schools in Washington County are vaccinated, placing it at the bottom of the list. Lee Academy, a private school in Penobscot County with eight central office staff, has only one vaccinated staff member.

Also among the 10 central district offices with the lowest staff vaccination rates are Lisbon Public Schools, where only eight out of the 31 staff, or 25.8%, are vaccinated; and Turner-based SAD 52, where 54 out of the 166 staff, or 32.5%, are vaccinated.

In addition, Hiram-based SAD 55 and Fryeburg-based SAD 72, both in Oxford County, have vaccinated rates under 50%.

There is only one school district in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties that has a central staff vaccination rate above 80%. Staff at RSU 73 in Jay are 91% vaccinated.

Auburn Public Schools did not submit their central staff vaccination rate.

The staff vaccination rate at some schools within the Lisbon and Lewiston districts aren’t faring well, either.

Lisbon Community School has the fourth lowest staff vaccination rate at an individual school in the state, at just 18.9%.

Six out of eight Lewiston public schools, including Lewiston Regional Technology Center, have a staff vaccination rate that is below 50%, but none top 60%.

Minot Consolidated School, which is part of RSU 16, has the highest vaccination rate, at 95%.

On Friday, the Maine Department of Labor and DOE announced that all public school staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. This comes as a result of President Joe Biden’s announcement last week that all private employers with 100 or more employees must follow this new rule under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Under a 2015 agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor called a “state plan,” Maine is required to adopt this rule, Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin wrote in a letter to educators this week.

OSHA has not announced specifics about enforcement deadlines.

The average vaccination rate among staff at individual schools in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties are 69.2%, 71.6% and 73.2%, respectively.

FOUR AREA SCHOOLS REPORT COVID-19 OUTBREAKS

Four schools in three districts serving Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties are in outbreak status, according to DOE dashboard published Friday.

Freeport-based Regional School Unit 5, Paris-based School Administrative District 17 and Dixfield-based RSU 56 have all reported outbreaks of COVID-19 within the 30 days ending Sept. 15.

The schools are: Durham Community School, five cases; Freeport High School, six cases; Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, 13 cases; and Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, 10 cases.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention opens an outbreak investigation at a school after three or more epidemiologically linked cases of COVID-19 from different households are reported in a 14-day period. These are cases among students and staff, though the dashboard does not differentiate between the two.

An outbreak investigation is closed after 14 days without a new case at a school.

The vaccination rate among students 12 years and older at both SAD 17 and RSU 56 are between 45% and 49%, as of Sept. 7. They are among seven school districts in the tri-county region with a student vaccination rate under 50%, according to DOE data.

Students eligible to receive a vaccine who attend RSU 5 schools, which serves Durham, Freeport and Pownal, are over 95% fully vaccinated.

As of Aug. 31, school staff at Durham Community and Freeport High schools is more than 90% vaccinated and staff at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School is about 88% vaccinated. Dirigo Elementary did not submit its staff vaccination numbers.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said at a media briefing Wednesday that it is too early in the school year to determine whether transmission of the virus is occurring in school settings or in the community.

“Given that it is early in the school year, many of the cases that are being detected are ones that are primarily a function of community transmission,” Shah said. “That is to say, kids who came into the school year, into the school building, already having COVID because of their various summer activities. That’s really where we are right now.”

Shah said although there was some transmission among students and staff at schools last school year, school-based transmission “was for the most part lower than the rate of transmission in the underlying community.”

A number of other schools have reported more than five cases of COVID-19 within the past 30 days, but do not meet the criteria to be designated as an outbreak. Those schools include Lewiston High School with nine cases, Lisbon Community School with 11 cases and Poland Community School with seven cases.

“It’s too early to see whether we’re seeing secondary waves of transmission within the school, (though) it’s almost certain that they will happen,” Shah said. “The question is whether they’ll be happening at a rate greater than the background community.”

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