The Star-Herald

SAD 1 schools to close for a week after two more COVID-19 cases

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — SAD 1 students will not return to in-person learning until Dec. 14 after two people connected to the district tested positive for COVID-19.

The announcement from Superintendent Ben Greenlaw came one day after Zippel Elementary School closed to in-person learning until Dec. 16 after a staff member there tested positive for COVID-19. Remote learning will begin for Zippel students on Monday and other SAD 1 students on Tuesday.

It is unknown if the new positive cases are students or staff members.

Greenlaw said the district would temporarily close the schools because of the three COVID-19 cases in the district, as well as the number of close contacts associated with the cases. He said the increased transmission of COVID-19 in the Presque Isle area also played a role.

“We felt it was prudent at this time to cease in-person instruction in order to gain a greater understanding of the spread of the virus in our schools and communities through testing of students and staff who were identified as close contacts,” Greenlaw said.

Describing the situation as “fluid,” Greenlaw said the district could spend a longer time remotely if there continues to be active COVID-19 cases in its schools or if there are too few staff members to provide in-person instruction. He will give an update to the district’s plan on Thursday.

As occurred with Zippel, SAD 1 personnel are notifying students and staff members who are considered close contacts of the two individuals by phone, asking them to quarantine for 14 days.

The district will provide free lunch and breakfast to students at sites throughout Presque Isle and Mapleton during the Dec 7-11 week of remote learning.

SAD 1 contains Presque Isle High School, Presque Isle Middle School, Zippel Elementary School, Pine Street Elementary School, Mapleton Elementary School and Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center. Students from each of those schools — except Zippel, which was not in session Friday — will get out at 1 p.m.

The closing of Aroostook County’s most populous school district comes as COVID-19 cases shoot up across Aroostook County, a region relatively unaffected by the disease until the past month.

There were 195 total cases of the virus in The County as of Dec. 6, including 75 active cases. On Nov. 3, there were only nine active cases, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Aroostook County continues to have the lowest case rate for COVID-19 of any county in Maine, though its total number of cases exceeds the less populous Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Piscataquis counties.

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