Maine public schools closed amid COVID surge

The Maine CDC confirmed eight schools at ‘outbreak’ level last week, with more cancelling in-person classes Tuesday

BROOKLIN, Maine — Some Maine school districts are dealing with COVID outbreaks just as they’re hitting the home stretch of another school year affected by the virus.

School Union 76 Interim Superintendent Mark Hurvitt announced Monday that The Brooklin School, which enrolls Pre-K through eighth-graders in the small peninsula town, would move to remote learning for at least the rest of the week. 

Hurvitt wrote that 30% of Brooklin’s students and staff had tested positive over the last handful of days.

“Things had been going well and we’ve got a real good pool testing program; we’ve got excellent nurses and we had things very well under control,” he told NEWS CENTER Maine on Tuesday. “And then, suddenly, over the weekend, cases started to pop up.”

Hurvitt is not the only school leader dealing with an outbreak.

We had 9 additional COVID cases today and are unable to open on Wednesday, 5/4. Send healthy thoughts to our school community!

Posted by Rumford Elementary School on Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Rumford Elementary School Principal Jill Bartash wrote a letter to families, saying 14 staff and 13 students had tested positive since Thursday; adding that it was the highest total since the beginning of the pandemic. She said there would be no class on Tuesday.

Schools must report to the Maine CDC when 15% of students and staff are absent. The Maine CDC then determines if that’s due to an outbreak. As of last Thursday, eight schools statewide had confirmed outbreaks, with just over 1,000 reported cases among all schools.

Back in Brooklin, saying he’s concerned for potential outbreaks in the district’s other schools, Hurvitt is still focusing on a June 14 end date to the school year.

“We’re trying to get to the finish line and, up until last week, I felt we had a really good, easy path,” he said. “But now, I don’t know. We’ll have to see how it goes. But, we will get to the finish line.”

Leadership with the Maine Dept. of Education and the Maine Dept. of Health & Human Services were unavailable for interviews Tuesday. Robert Long, a spokesperson for the Maine CDC, sent a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine:

We’re receiving more positive test results each day, reflective of increased transmission. Wastewater screening and hospitalizations also indicate that we are in a period of increased transmission, which is consistent with what other jurisdictions saw with the Omicron subvariants. Vaccination, including boosters and second boosters for those who are eligible, remain among the most effective tools in limiting risks posed by COVID-19. We also encourage Maine people to work with their medical providers to create a plan to be able to get Paxlovid or other therapeutic treatments quickly if they test positive.