The Star-Herald

SAD 1 superintendent discusses COVID-19 procedures with parents

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw spoke with parents about the standard operating procedure for COVID-19 during a school board meeting on Wednesday.

Members of the Presque Isle and Mapleton communities met in the Presque Isle High School cafeteria for the monthly school board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 15. Parents commented on the school’s current operating procedure regarding COVID, sharing points of gratitude, as well as concern moving into the next year.

This led to Greenlaw giving a presentation on the standard operating procedure for the district, and how that has shaped the school’s COVID response.

Greenlaw’s presentation gave data on how many cases there have been in the district. They have recorded a total of 172 positive cases, making up 8.2 percent of students and staff, as well as 821 close contacts. Only 10 vaccinated people have tested positive, making up 5.8 percent of total cases, and other the 162 cases are people who are unvaccinated, making up 94.1 percent of cases. Only 25 close contacts have tested positive, which is 14.5 percent of total cases.

SAD 1 has had most of its students out of school due to close contacts, which is defined as being in contact with someone who has tested positive, within six feet, for more than 15 minutes, Greenlaw said. A close contact has to be quarantined for 10 days, although there are four exceptions. All exceptions require the person to be asymptomatic

First, a fully vaccinated person can remain in school if they are exposed in school or in the community. Second, an individual who tested positive in the last 90 days is not required to quarantine.

Third, a person enrolled in pool testing is allowed to continue attending school and participate in extracurriculars if the exposure happened at school. If the exposure happened in the community, they will have to quarantine. Finally, if a school has a mandatory masking policy like Presque Isle, a person who is within 3-6 feet of a positive case in the classroom may continue to attend school, but not participate in extracurricular activities.

Greenlaw also announced that the Maine CDC wants to make changes to the standard operating procedure after the new year, but what those changes entail is still unknown.

School districts are required to abide by the state laws and Maine Department of Education requirements. Breaking from the standard operating procedure could result in the district losing their superintendent’s license. They are also required to abide by CDC guidelines.

The district has been conducting pool testing to limit the number of close contact quarantines. Out of the 1,756 students and 274 staff members in the district, there are 690 total enrolled in pool testing.

Some parents who spoke during the public comment period expressed their frustrations about the current protocols in place, with more focus on frustration with the circumstances, rather than with the school faculty.

“I am upset with the policy in place, not with the school,” Presque Isle parent Keith Wilcox said. “If the public had to follow the SOP, we would be in a state of war right now.”

Others expressed a very appreciative view for district staff for their efforts.

“Thank you for showing compassion to our kids,” Billi Griffeth said. “Thank you for showing up to do the best for our children.”

The board also recognized two of its members, Susan Goulay and Stephen Sutter, for their years of service to the board.

The board ended by going into executive session to discuss administrative planning and assessment and adjourned shortly thereafter.

The next SAD1 board meeting will take place at 5:30 pm. Jan. 19, 2022, in the Presque Isle High School cafeteria.

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