JAY — The Spruce Mountain School District has seen a drop recently in the number of COVID-19 cases among students and staff, Superintendent Scott Albert told Regional School Unit 73 directors Thursday.

In a Jan. 17 email Albert noted there were 71 new cases from Jan. 9-16. An email Jan. 23 he said there were 48 new cases since Jan. 16.

Albert said the number of cases from the first day of school to Thursday was 467, with students accounting for 398 and adults for 63.

As of Jan. 13, there were 424 cases, he said.

Because of changes in the standard operating procedures issued by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, contact tracing is not being done, Albert said.

In a Jan. 17 email Albert noted there were 71 new cases from Jan. 9-16. An email Jan. 23 said there were 48 new cases since Jan. 16.

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The district includes the Spruce Mountain Primary School in Livermore and the elementary, middle and high schools in Jay. The adult education program is in Livermore Falls.

In August, Directors voted 6-5 to require masks be worn while in school buildings. Since then, several parents have requested the requirement be dropped.

With continuing public comments on the issue, Director Patrick Milligan followed up with Albert after the last meeting on reconsidering the vote.

“As a board we’re not able to reconsider that motion unless an individual who voted to enact the universal masking makes the reconsideration,” Milligan said. “That’s likely not going to happen here at this juncture, where we are. We need to keep the schools open at this point no matter what anybody feels. The (standard operating procedure) is designed to keep kids in school as long as possible.

“School units that do not enforce a universal masking policy must continue to contact trace and quarantine students and staff in accordance with the (standard operating procedure),” he said. “I, for one,  would like to see the kids’ faces before the school year is out, but I also don’t want to be jumping the gun while we still have a situation going on here in the community.”

Milligan noted any decision would also affect the memorandum of understanding the directors have with the staff who work in the district educating children. He suggested the situation is more suited for state legislators to decide.

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“I just want us to collectively as a board bring the focus back into the district,” Milligan said. “Whether we are universal masking or not, everyone here has the best interest of the children in mind. We all should be focusing on making sure that we’re not increasing the gap in education that we have developed over this period of time. Masks are uncomfortable, maybe not fun. Educating kids is.”

Directors Phoebe Pike and Joel Pike wanted to focus on some of the positive things happening in the district, including an upcoming musical, bus drivers and the high school robotics team.

“I want to give a shout-out to (middle school teacher Dan) Labonte for helping put together the musical,” she said. “Going through the auditions, rehearsals, it’s already looking fantastic. I couldn’t be happier for our kids.”

Pike also tipped her hat to the bus drivers who “don’t get the appreciation they often deserve.” With the weather and the storm coming up she asked they get a round of applause.

“As most of you know, I do a lot of robotics around the state,” Director Joel Pike said. Through the Foster Career and Technical Education Center connection, he said, the Blue Crew robotics team at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington will be bringing in Spruce Mountain High School and Rob Taylor. “Four students have signed up, three have gone up there tonight to integrate with their team,” he said.

Competitions are scheduled for February, March and April, he noted.

“It’s disappointing we didn’t have a team here but going there gives them an opportunity,” Joel Pike said. “That program is very valuable for students.”


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