JAY — Contact tracing for COVID-19 in the Spruce Mountain School District is temporarily suspended, Superintendent Scott Albert announced at Thursday night’s meeting of Regional School Unit 73 directors.

“You’ve received a couple of robocalls, one last week and one today,” he said, “talking about changes in standard operating procedures” by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The one major change last week was a shorter quarantine time, from 10 days to five if the school requires masks. Close contacts wouldn’t have to quarantine, he added.

The omicron variant being so prevalent, the time involved to trace contacts and some students in quarantine would make it impossible to try to contact trace, Albert said.

“It’s not just us,” he said. “You can walk into Hannaford, walk into one of the schools, a restaurant, there is risk because community transmission is so high. We don’t know when they will go back to contact tracing at this point.”

Since the first day of school, there have been 424 positive cases in the district involving 360 students and  63 adults, representing 26% and 25% of those groups, respectively, Albert said. If too many staff members are lost, keeping schools open could become an issue, he added.

“We’ve seen the numbers are going back up again,” Albert said. “Our goal is to keep students in schools, keep schools open.”

The CDC’s Standard Operating Procedure posted Tuesday can be viewed online at https://tinyurl.com/v6zbxps7.

Besides the high school, others in the district are Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay, Spruce Mountain Primary School in Livermore, Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay and Spruce Mountain Adult Education in Livermore Falls.

In other business, directors unanimously approved the superintendent’s salary for the next two fiscal years: $114,000 for July 31 to June 30, 2023, and $117,000 for July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024.

In June 2020, Albert’s contract was extended three years, with some monetary changes. The board approved increasing his salary 2.5% for 2020-21 and 2021-22 and increasing travel reimbursement from $500 to $750 in 2020-21. His salary was to be renegotiated this spring for 2022-23.

Directors also approved allowing Spruce Mountain High School in Jay to hold its prom May 7 at Boothby’s Orchard and Farm Winery in Livermore. The site has been donated for free.

“We’re looking to have dancing, a traditional-style prom,” Principal TJ Plourde said. He said he knows there are too many variables to make those decisions now.

Bus transportation will be provided from the high school and back for students who need it. All rules in place while on school grounds will be followed, Plourde said.

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