The Star-Herald

Washburn schools going fully remote until January

This story has been updated.

Amid rising COVID-19 cases in the Presque Isle area, Washburn Elementary School and Washburn District High School will close for a month after an SAD 45 staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Remote instruction for students began on Friday and will continue until schools go back to in-person learning on Jan. 4, Superintendent Larry Worcester said. During that time, district staff will clean the buildings to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

It is the longest closure for a school in the Presque Isle area. While other districts have closed, most closings have only been for a few days.

The district said the long closure was due to the number of staff members who were close contacts of the individual, and would need to quarantine. The district does not have enough substitutes to cover the vacancies.

“By the time we were able to have enough staff back, it would be just before Christmas break,” a district official wrote in a comment on SAD 45’s Facebook page.

The district said school staff and Maine Center for Disease Control personnel would contact people who are considered close contacts of the staff member who tested positive. They will be asked to quarantine for 14 days from the last interaction they had with the positive individual, Worcester said.

The month-long remote learning period is the second COVID-19 related closure for SAD 45 — students had been out on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 after an employee associated with the district was identified as a probable COVID-19 case.

Washburn’s closing came the same day that Zippel Elementary School in Presque Isle shut its doors after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Zippel will resume in-person learning on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

On Friday, SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw said that all of SAD 1’s other schools would not resume in-person learning until Monday, Dec. 14, after two more individuals connected to the district tested positive for COVID-19.

SAD 32 (Ashland), SAD 42 (Mars Hill), SAD 20 (Fort Fairfield) and the Easton School Department remain in session with in-person learning.

Aroostook County continues to have the lowest COVID-19 rate of any county in Maine (29.1 per 10,000 people), though it doesn’t have the lowest total number of cases — less populous Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Piscataquis counties have fewer cases overall, according to Maine CDC data.

Yet, The County has seen a sharp escalation of cases in recent weeks: there are 75 active cases, up from only six on Nov. 2.

Students from Washburn, Wade and Perham attend SAD 45 schools.

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