January 12, 2022
Dear RSU 1 Community,
I would like to inform you that we have received further procedural updates from the state CDC and DOE. Given the current surge of COVID-19 in Maine, they have again changed Maine’s standard operating procedures for schools (S.O.P - the document that outlines the guidelines Maine schools must follow during the pandemic).
Schools that have universal masking will no longer be required to do contact tracing for any positive cases. This change, which will be implemented immediately, is consistent with those adopted recently by other New England states. While this seems counterintuitive given the rise in cases in our community and in our schools, the change is being made by the state to recognize:
“The Maine CDC has determined that, because the Omicron variant is far more contagious than prior variants, has a shorter incubation period, and tends to spread in the early part of an infection, it is contributing to higher levels of community transmission, making community exposures more frequent and, consequently, reducing the effectiveness of contact tracing in schools. While the goal of contact tracing is to provide a timely notification to all individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, school superintendents have reported that conducting contact tracing in a timely and thorough manner is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for school personnel given the fast spread of the Omicron variant.” (quoted from the Maine DOE Media Release on January 12th)
Given the high case numbers in our community, it is unfortunately best to assume that at some point during the day everyone may be exposed to COVID-19. Therefore, prime importance should be put on consistent mask wearing, hand washing, and spacing while eating and drinking.
Nurses and administrators across the state, ours included, do not have the capacity to keep up with the number of notices that would need to be sent out for the number of cases we are seeing within a day. The state is more interested in shifting their time and attention to other strategies that ensure the physical and emotional health and safety of students and staff.
Schools that are doing pooled testing are getting students and staff members home when they are found to be positive. (It is not too late to sign up for pooled testing! Click here if you are interested.)
I know that for many of you, getting close contact notifications help you to have a sense of the level of COVID within our buildings or for staff even within their own classrooms. Please know that the numbers are higher than they have ever been and each school is currently being impacted daily. I do not say this to alarm you. I share this to ensure everyone has an awareness of the prevalence of COVID-19 in our school system just as it is in all school systems in our area. The best thing we can do right now is to stay home if we feel at all sick with any symptom of illness (use our daily symptom screener tool) and consistently and accurately wear our masks. Again, we will be posting the number of positive cases by school on our district website by 3 pm on Fridays. This will provide updated information on where our numbers stand.
Please contact your school nurse should you have any questions. Thank you for your continued efforts to keep our community safe.