#schoolsafety | RSU 16 lays out plans for possible COVID-19 cases

POLAND — Though a smattering of COVID-19 cases in the region have caused some schools to close briefly, RSU 16 has so far avoided that necessity.

It plans, though, to follow the same path that other districts have followed if a positive case arises.

Superintendent Kenneth Healey told school board members this week that if someone tests positive at  one of the district’s schools in Poland, Minot or Mechanic Falls, he would likely close the building and have students there shift to remote learning for three days while the school undergoes a deep cleaning.

“That would be the expectation,” Healey said.

Though a single case “usually leads to more than one,” Healey said he hopes any shift to all-remote learning would be short-lived.

He said that if there is an outbreak of three or more cases, the school would need to close for 14 days to clamp down on any spread of the coronavirus.

Healey said he is the person who would make the decision about how long to close down classrooms, but he would consult with experts at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Barring any dramatic change, the district plans to keep its hybrid system of most students going to the building two days a week in place until Jan. 22, when it will be reevaluated for the next semester.

Healey said if a vaccine were to become available, for example, that “would be a game changer” in terms of the district’s approach. But there is little chance of widespread vaccine availability until well into 2021.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have a system to categorize counties based on a holistic assessment of possible risks related to COVID-19. Two Maine counties are rated yellow, the rest green.

Healey said as long as Androscoggin County keeps a green rating from a county chart developed by the state to determine school safety, RSU 16 will be able to continue the policies it has in place for students and their activities.

He said if the state shifts it to yellow, which is possible, the district would have to cease athletics and co-curricular activities.

With schools in Oxford County having issues and positive results turning up in Androscoggin County, RSU 16 Assistant Superintendent Amy Hediger said, “Our district feels like it’s being closed in on with cases all around us.”

“I hope we can stay green at least a little bit longer,” Healey said.


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