FREEPORT — Regional School Unit 5 officials reported late last week that a Durham Community School student has tested positive for COVID-19. It is the district’s fifth positive case of the virus since Sept. 28.

Regional School Unit 5 includes students from Freeport, Durham and Pownal. 

In a letter to the community, Superintendent Becky Foley said the student has been participating in the remote learning option since the beginning of the school year but that officials were informing families “out of extreme caution.” 

Last week, Foley announced that an individual “associated with Freeport Middle School” tested positive and that “there is a possibility that other staff or students came in contact with this individual and therefore may be exposed to the virus.”

Later that same day she sent out a second letter that three more cases had been identified— another at Freeport Middle School and one each at Mast Landing School and Freeport High School. It is unclear if the cases were in students or staff. 

Foley said families whose children were impacted were contacted by school officials or the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Close contacts are asked to quarantine for 14 days from last exposure to the positive individual. A negative test result does not get an individual out of quarantine. 

The schools remain open and the cases do not qualify as an outbreak. The Maine CDC defines an outbreak as three or more confirmed cases from different households within 14 days in one school. 

The fifth case comes less than two weeks before Foley is expected to make a decision on whether to reopen schools for full in-person instruction later this month.

Despite the “green light” from the state,  Foley previously recommended that the board follow the “yellow” or hybrid protocol to further reduce risks to students and staff. 

A green plan would include a full reopening with some safety restrictions in place and a red plan would mean remote-only instruction for students. 

“Of course we all want… our kids back in school full-time, we just do not believe that right now is the time to do that,” she said at the time, adding that if all goes well, students could all be in the classroom Oct. 19.

The district adopted its hybrid learning plan Aug. 12 and welcomed students back Sept. 8.

In her October newsletter to families, Foley said transportation has been going well, but that there are continued hurdles in getting meals and snacks to students who need them, they are still waiting for some additional furniture and keeping three feet of separation between students is not only difficult but is also sometimes not possible. These factors and others will play a role in her decision, which she expects to make Oct. 14. 

RSU 5 is not the only local district to report cases. Brunswick school department, Maine School Administrative District 75 (Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham) and Harpswell Coastal Academy have also had coronavirus cases since reopening.

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