January 1, 2022
Dear RSU 56 Students, Staff, Families, and Community Members,
Welcome to 2022! I sincerely wish you all the best in the new year. I am certainly hoping for an end to the pandemic in 2022.
I expect that many of you have heard the update from the US CDC in terms of responding to COVID 19. The Maine Center for Disease Control has updated the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Maine schools. The updated SOP for responding to a positive case of COVID-19 in schools can be viewed HERE.
The key changes to the SOP include:
Isolation and quarantine periods for students and staff are shortened (to 5 days) consistent with recently updated guidance from the U.S. CDC,
The Maine CDC is aligning its definition of what constitutes a COVID-19 outbreak in schools with the State’s longstanding definition of an outbreak of other infectious diseases in schools. Effective immediately, the Maine CDC will open an outbreak investigation if a school reports that more than 15 percent of a school population is absent, which is the standard currently utilized to define an outbreak from other infectious diseases, such as influenza.
The Maine CDC will no longer consider exposure to COVID-19 in an outdoor setting or on a school bus, where the Federal government requires masks be worn, as a “close contact.”
The Maine CDC is updating its “test to stay” pooled testing program to enable more students to stay in the classroom. Previously, students and staff participating in pooled testing who were exposed to COVID-19 outside of a school setting were required to quarantine and not attend school. If they were exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting and participating in pooled testing, then they were not required to quarantine from school. Now, regardless of where the exposure occurs, if a student or staff member is participating in pooled testing, then they will not be required to quarantine from school.
Consistent with U.S. CDC guidance, the Maine CDC continues to recommend universal indoor masking by students, staff members, faculty, and visitors in K–12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. The RSU 56 School Board previously voted to require mandatory masking in all RSU 56 buildings. That remains in effect until such time as the RSU 56 School Board votes otherwise.
The new SOP also outlines exemptions from quarantine as follows:
Close contacts must quarantine for 5 days from last COVID-19 exposure from school and school activities and then wear a mask for an additional 5 days unless at least one of the following conditions applies:
1. The close contact (staff or student) is boosted (if eligible for a booster); or
2. The close contact (staff or student) is not eligible for a booster but is fully vaccinated; or
3. The close contact (staff or student) completed their second mRNA dose within 6 months (or completed their J&J vaccine within two months); or
4. The close contact (staff or student) participates in school pooled testing; or
5. The school is enforcing a mandatory masking policy.
Staff and students who do not fall within exceptions 1-5 above must quarantine if they are a close contact, regardless of the location of exposure.
If the student or staff only fall within exceptions 4-5, they must quarantine in the community, per Maine CDC quarantine guidelines.
Best practice for determining COVID19 is a PCR test through a local center such as Wal-greens. However, we realize there are times they are scheduling so far out, this becomes impractical for the 5-day timeline. If this is the case, please let your school nurse know the day of (home) testing positive and the first day of symptoms. They will be able to tell you when isolation/quarantining will end. If you/student has tested positive BEFORE Wed. Dec. 29 AND are now symptom free you may come to school on Jan. 3rd. If you/student has tested positive or has been exposed, and do not meet the exemptions explained above, between Dec. 29th through Jan. 3rd please stay home on Monday Jan. 3rd and contact your school nurse.
As always, please be patient and polite to your school nurse and office staff when/if you need to interact. They are absolutely trying their best to keep all staff and students safe in our schools by following the SOP guidelines.
Again, Happy New Year to you and yours!
Pam Doyen, Superintendent of RSU 56