School Plans in Houlton, Mars Hill, Presque Isle & Van Buren
The situation surrounding Covid-19 and schools in Aroostook County has escalated rapidly since the weekend. Adding to the complexity of it all is some schools have been in session for a couple of weeks and some schools have not due back until September 7. Schools in Houlton, Mars Hill, Presque Isle and Van Buren have all had to adjust plans in recent days. Here is what we know so far.
The Houlton school district hosted a public meeting about masking policies for the upcoming year in light of a recent increase in cases of coronavirus around the community. After much debate and comments from the public, the school board voted to require masking for all students and the school day will still run until 2:30 p.m. The neighboring community of Hodgdon has made masking optional for students to start the school year.
Let's check in on Mars Hill
MSAD #42 in Mars Hill began the school year on August 11th and on Monday evening the school announced that there are two known cases of Covid-19 at the junior/high school building. They have worked to identify any close contacts and a 10-day quarantine has begun for those individuals. Central Aroostook Jr/Sr High School is requiring students to wear masks from now through September 3. At that point the school will review and see where the trends are and decide if a masking requirement will be continued. MSAD #42 dismisses all students in grades K-12 for harvest break on September 17 and they are scheduled to return on October 12.
The Wildcats Covid-19 situation
MSAD #1 in Presque Isle announced that they have had an individual associated with the high school test positive and 14 students were identified as close contacts. The teachers who were close contacts do not have to quarantine and are remaining at the school to teach because they are fully vaccinated. Officials say they will continue to monitor the number of cases in the community, but for now masking for students and staff remains optional for Presque Isle students. The high school will dismiss for harvest break in September, and grades K-8 in Presque Isle and Mapleton start school on September 7.
Students in Van Buren are returning to the school on Tuesday, after contract tracing was completed involving a case within the district. High school students in Van Buren will be required to wear masks in school through August 31, at which point the policy will be reviewed.
Many of us had hoped we would get a "normal” school year because we have seen our children put up with a consistent inconsistency of policies and procedures in regards to Covid-19. To all of my fellow frustrated parents, hang in there. You are not alone. Having to rush to find child care, leave work, and change plans on the fly has become too common and has long-term implications we haven't begun to understand. We will continue to monitor the situations around area schools and will inform you on policy updates as the information becomes available to us.