DIXFIELD — The number of students with COVID-19 or quarantined because they were in close contact with an infected person has risen from 31 to 87 in the past two weeks, Regional School Unit 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen told directors Tuesday.

The total is nearly three times as many as reported Oct. 26, and nearly eight times more than on Oct. 12.

From Oct. 27 to Nov. 9, 21 students were infected and 66 were quarantined among the district’s three schools: Dirigo High School and T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School, both in Dixfield, and Dirigo Elementary School in Peru.

For the two weeks prior, Oct. 13 to 26, four had the virus and 27 were quarantined, for a total of 31. That compares with no cases and 11 quarantined students Sept. 29 to Oct. 12; and a total of 21 students out of school from Sept. 15 to 28; and 189 out of class the first two weeks of school when masks were optional.

Doyen said the district was still identifying students and staff as close contacts, even though they are applying the 3-foot social distancing and masking rules.

Less structured times, such as during lunches, walking in hallways and recesses make it more difficult to keep students socially distant, she said.

“Specifically grades prekindergarten and kindergarten, it’s really developmentally not appropriate to try to keep kids 3 feet apart all the time. They just cannot sit in a chair 3 feet apart all day long,” Doyen said.

While students in upper grades do a better job at keeping the 3-foot distance from one another, they are at times “drifting” into closer proximity, Doyen said middle school Principal Jason Long told her.

She also noted that student athletes are considered close contacts of any teammate who tests positive for COVID-19. However, those students who are vaccinated or who take part in pooled testing for coronavirus do not have to quarantine as close contacts unless they have symptoms of illness.

Director Brad Dyer of Carthage, speaking via Zoom conferencing, asked Doyen why schools would have COVID-19 cases, since they require masking and social distancing for everyone.

“We have no control . . . outside of school, so if a student tests positive we don’t really have control over that. And secondly, as I just explained, there are times that we cannot keep 3 feet apart,” Doyen said.

Also at the meeting, Doyen, on behalf of the Maine School Boards Association, recognized Chairwoman Barbara Chow and Director Bruce Ross, both of Dixfield, for their years of service. Chow has served served on the RSU 56 and RSU 10 boards for 26 years.

“It’s greatly appreciated for all you do for this school as well as the districts that you served prior to this,” Doyen told her.

Ross was recognized for his 16 years of service those boards.

“Great thanks for the 16 years of service on the school board,” Doyen said.

RSU 56 was formed in November 2016, when Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru withdrew from RSU 10 in Rumford.


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