FARMINGTON — Mt. Blue School District Superintendent Chris Elkington and Franklin Community Health Network (FCHN) President Trampas Hutches have released a joint statement urging all students over 12 years old and families in the district to get the COVID-19 vaccine and follow other safety protocols. They also outlined the difficulties both entities have faced during the pandemic, including increased demands at FCHN’s testing center.

Across the district, Mt. Blue schools have seen 4o positive cases of COVID-19 since the start of the school year on Sept. 7, according to the district website’s case counts. Because of these positive cases, there have been over 300 close contacts in the district, many of whom have had to quarantine as a result.

Subsequently, the Maine CDC has said the Mt. Blue campus (home to Mt. Blue High School and Foster Career and Technical Education Center) is in “outbreak status.”

In the statement, Elkington and Hutches explain that because of these positive cases and close contacts, FCHN’s COVID-19 testing center could be pushed “to the limits of its capacity” as testing demands have grown by “four-fold” since the start of the school year.

“In the weeks since students returned to in-person classes, that (average) number (of COVID-19 tests performed by FCHN) skyrocketed to 175 per day,” Elkington and Hutches wrote. “Before schools started back up in early August, the average number of COVID-19 tests performed at (the FCHN) testing clinic was 30 per day.”

Elkington and Hutches said that both the school district and health network — “the two largest employers in our area” — “have not missed a beat” working to adapt to the needs and constraints brought on by the pandemic.

“At FCHN, staff have worked extra shifts, struggled to get needed testing, all while trying to navigate ever-changing policies and procedures,” they wrote.

They said that “many families have approached both the schools and medical services with kindness and flexibility and we are grateful.”

However, “not everyone seems to understand the difficulties we are balancing in our schools and our health care facilities to support students, staff, and our communities.”

“Some people don’t trust our motives for doing what we’re doing. Others seem to think we are deliberately trying to make processes and procedures more complicated,” Elkington and Hutches wrote.

Since the RSU 9 Board of Directors passed a district-wide universal masking mandate at the end of August, the district has faced many complaints. Parents have expressed frustration with the mandate, as well as quarantining guidelines, during board-meeting public-comment sessions and on the district’s multiple community Facebook pages.

One individual threatened to sue the district for the mandate. Former Director Jesse Sillanpaa resigned from the board, in part because he disagreed with the mandate and encouraged parents to remove their children from the district.

“In reality, all we really want is our community families to be healthy and cared for, whether in school or at the hospital,” Elkington and Hutches wrote.

They acknowledged that “it’s hard and frustrating to keep up with the new masking policies, vaccination mandates, and quarantine guidelines” that are “constantly changing” and that “a vast majority of you are doing your best.”

Ultimately, Elkington and Hutches asked that families show “your support” by “wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, and avoiding unnecessary crowds” — all of which they say are “necessary aspects of present pandemic life, as are kindness, empathy, and patience.”

They specifically emphasized the request that everyone over the age of 12 get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Vaccines are essential to curbing the COVID-19 outbreak in our community and waiting any longer is too long,” they finished. “Please show the hardworking folks on the frontlines of healthcare, education, and so many other essential industries that we really are in this together as a community by taking the critical steps to ensure everyone’s wellbeing.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.