JAY — Regional School Unit 73 Superintendent Scott Albert announced Spruce Mountain Elementary School is in COVID-19 outbreak status during the board meeting Thursday night, Sept. 23.

“That means we’ve had three active cases within the last 14 days,” he said. “At the moment there’s nothing else we have to do.”

A person from Maine CDC is excited RSU 73 will begin pool testing mid-October which will help with quarantining, Albert said.

In a notification sent to staff, students and family after the meeting, Albert noted some of the individuals are ready to return to school after following MCDC protocols.

There were six student cases prior to the start of school and 15 cases since — 10 students and five staff, he said. School nurses are pretty sure 14 are definitely not school transmissions, the other one is being looked at, he noted in the meeting.

Is the number of close contacts a large number or large enough that they’re being looked at to understand, Director Joel Pike asked. Lunch, mask breaks, how are those close contacts happening, he queried.

All students are at school this year compared to only half at a time last year, Albert said. Not all close contacts need to quarantine, he noted.

“I’m not surprised by the close contact numbers,” Albert said. Buses are full with a 6-foot radius, classrooms are trying to be kept full,” he said. “We’ll keep looking at the numbers.”

Pool testing and vaccines coming for younger kids should help, Albert said.

Attendance at all Spruce schools is between 80 and 85% of students being here compared to 90% before the pandemic, he said. Because of the masking, vaccines, a lot of students are here, he noted.

On a day-to-day basis, 5-7% of absences are COVID related, with 10-12% more absences this year, Albert said.

Not being reactionary to information changing daily on pool testing, newer studies, COVID treatments and booster shots was noted by Director Patrick Milligan. “We just went through it with face masks,” he said. “Don’t take my word or anyone else’s, do your own research so you are aware of what you can do for yourself.

“Remember, here at school we still have to protect everybody,” Milligan said.

With pool testing people may have had this disease and not know it, there’s no base line, Director John Johnson said. The CDC says once someone has had it, they’ll test positive for at least 90 days, he noted. Some may have had it this summer, that may show up once testing starts, he added.

Anyone who has had COVID in the last 90 days doesn’t need to quarantine, Albert said. If the pool tests are all negative, nothing else is needed but if there is a positive test, the group is tested again, he said.

When kids are sent home with symptoms is there anything in place to make sure they’re getting the work missed, Johnson asked.

“We do have people reaching out, it’s not as wonderful as we’d like it to be,” Albert said. Keeping kids in school as much as possible is the main point, he noted.

In other business, Food Service Director Laura Merrill gave an update on participation in the food programs.

District-wide, 56% of students are eating breakfast and 55% lunch. Respective numbers at the various schools are:

• Primary: 70%; 58%

• Elementary: 58%; 59%

• Middle: 41%; 60%

• High: 51%; 47%

The district is not doing as well as it could be in gathering financial data for eligibility in the free/reduced meal program, Merrill said. District information must be submitted to the state by the end of this week, she said.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has made all meals free to students regardless of income eligibility. Maine was one of the first states in the nation to extend free meals beyond this school year.

Districts must continue providing information to the state available from the Meal Benefit Application. Income data on those forms is also used for determining key funding for schools, including meal reimbursements from the federal government; funding for Title I programs in schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students; funding for after-school programs; and money from the Maine Legislature for programs, services and special education.

The decline in applications could jeopardize district funding.

Meal Benefit Applications are available under the information section of the RSU73 website.

 

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