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Caribou, Limestone schools announce plans to reopen in January

CARIBOU and LIMESTONE, Maine — RSU 39 and Limestone Community School have announced plans to reopen schools for full or limited in-person instruction starting on Monday, Jan. 4.

In a letter sent to parents and staff members Dec. 30, RSU 39 superintendent Tim Doak wrote that Caribou Community School will operate under a yellow model, during which students will attend in-person classes half time and learn from home during the remainder of the week.

The announcement comes after all RSU 39 schools relied on remote learning from early December until Christmas break due to increased COVID-19 case numbers in the Caribou area and within RSU 39.

Caribou High School will allow families to choose whether their children will follow a green (fully in-person) model, a yellow (hybrid) model or red (fully online) model of learning. The adjacent Caribou Career and Technology Center will operate under the green model.

Doak said the possibility that RSU 39 schools will go fully red again remains, especially due to the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in Aroostook County. 

As of Dec. 30, Aroostook County has seen 585 cases of COVID-19, with 423 of those cases being active. Maine CDC zip code data approximates 97 cases of COVID-19 in Caribou and one to five probable cases in Limestone as of Dec. 27.

Doak urged families to remain vigilant about COVID-19 prevention, including mask wearing, social distancing and keeping a close eye on their children’s health. He also recommended that families quarantine if they learn of potential exposure to COVID-19.

“RSU 39 is appreciative of the many sacrifices you have made over the past nine months,” Doak said, in his letter. “We ask that you please continue to do your part to contain this virus so that RSU 39 can keep our schools open.”

Limestone Principal Ben Lothrop also announced Wednesday that the school would resume full in-person learning on Jan. 4, with the proper COVID-19 precautions in place. He said that any families who traveled outside Maine, with the exception of New Hampshire and Vermont, during the holiday break will need to quarantine for 10 days.

“If your child has any potential COVID-19 symptoms or if there has been potential exposure, please keep your child home and contact our school nurse, Connie Anderson, immediately,” Lothrop said. 

The school will continue to release students at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays to give teachers additional time for class preparations. 

Like RSU 39, Limestone transitioned into remote learning in December due to rising case numbers in the region. Lothrop reminded families that the school remains prepared to shift the mode of instruction if necessary and urged them to take precautions against potential exposure.

“As anxious as we all are for in-person learning, it is critical that everyone work together to keep both students and staff safe, along with families at home,” Lothrop said. “Should health and safety conditions change in our school, we will act appropriately. But at this point, we will take one day at a time.”

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