Creative Children’s Academy of the Community Regional Charter School on South Factory Street in Skowhegan on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Community Regional Charter School, formerly the Cornville Charter School, has closed all three of its buildings for two weeks after several members of the school tested positive for COVID-19.

On Thursday morning, Executive Director Travis Works confirmed there are 13 cases now, nine staff members and four students. Works was not able to clarify where the cases are in the school’s three buildings. The situation is now deemed an outbreak, he said.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, Works said that the Community Regional Charter School saw its first case of COVID-19 on Sunday in the Creative Children’s Academy, which houses 32 students in the prekindergarten program as well as the central office, the business office and special education department.

All staff who had direct potential exposure at Creative Children’s Academy, where the initial case was discovered, were tested. Following Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines, the building was closed for three days while officials evaluated the situation and awaited test results.

On Monday, test results showed that there was exposure in at least one of the other buildings, and the decision was made to close all three buildings for three days.

On Tuesday, the decision was made to close all schools down for 14 days in order to provide ample time between any direct contact that leaders, parents or staff would have had with anyone who tested positive. The hope is to bring students back on Oct. 19.

Community Regional Charter School has three separate buildings: Dimensions Academy in Cornville, Overman Academy in Skowhegan and Creative Children’s Academy in Skowhegan.

Currently, the breakdown of people among the buildings is as follows:

• Creative Children’s Academy, on South Factory Street in Skowhegan, has 32 students and about six adults. Four students are learning remotely.
• Dimensions Academy, on West Ridge Road in Cornville, has about 160 students with about 130 in the building and the others learning remotely.
• Overman Academy, on Water Street in Skowhegan, has about 150 students; 35 are located at Eaton Mountain and 15 are learning remotely.

 

The charter school communicated the situation to Maine School Administrative District 54 Superintendent Jon Moody, Kennebec County Community College, Somerset Career and Technical Center, Foster Technology Center and other institutions and agencies. A comprehensive list of names of students who had direct exposure to any positive cases was provided to Maine CDC.

Works said that one of the employees within the MSAD 54 district was identified as a close contact with someone who tested positive. Some families are split between the the schools. Some parents work within the charter school system and have children in the MSAD 54 or vice-versa. He said he spent a large chunk of time Wednesday communicating with Moody to alert him of each individual of concern.

At least eight children, Works said, who have parents working within the charter school system attend school in MSAD 54, Works said.

“On Tuesday we let any agency that our kids are shared with know that there has been potential exposure and to be cautious,” Works said. “If you wait for the data to catch up, it could make the spread even worse.”

He said that email blasts have been sent to parents and all necessary data has been turned over to Maine CDC to help with contact tracing. He is working with the CDC on a plan to reopen.

Students within the charter school system come from about 20 towns in central Maine including St. Albans, Hartland, Newport, Fairfield, Benton, Farmington, New Sharon, Bingham, Madison, Canaan, Mercer, Smithfield, Skowhegan and many in between.

The school system had been operating under a 100% in-person model with remote students logging in and joining classrooms live. Spaces within the schools have been able to accommodate smaller class sizes of about 7-10 students.

On Thursday, all students began working remotely. Each student has been provided with technology and those who do not have internet access were provided with a hotspot.

Works said rumors have been spread that the school has been relaxed in imposing safety protocols but said that this is not the case.

“We do offer mask breaks and we do allow them to take them off, but only under strict and stringent guidelines,” Works said. “Looking at the data coming in, the majority of the cases are with adults. When we come back, we will review our protocols that we have between us adults to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to ensure that we’re keeping adults safe.”

Dimensions Academy at the former Cornville Elementary School on West Ridge Road in Cornville on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

He added that plexiglass barriers have been manufactured on site to be utilized in classrooms, a cost-saving measure.

“We manufactured our own materials as cost saving measures, so we’ve been able to stretch every dollar that came from CARES Act funding.”

MSAD 54 announced Wednesday afternoon that schools districtwide would close for the remainder of the week after a student at Skowhegan Area High School tested positive for COVID-19 and because others within the school community may have come in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

MSAD 54 serves the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan.

On Thursday, the administrative team is scheduled to meet with epidemiologists and other CDC representatives to discuss close contacts, recommendations, testing, reopening plans, social supports, supply needs and next steps.

Overman Academy is in the building with the red awning and the canoe in the window on Water Street in Skowhegan on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

In his earlier post Wednesday, Works said Dimensions Academy in Cornville had one presumptive positive case; the Creative Children’s Academy and the Overman Academy, both in Skowhegan, had several cases. Works did not clarify how many cases were at each school. He said that the positive cases were mainly among adults.

“(This) indicates that we have been able to keep our learners safe and limit the exposure and risk level to those learners that we serve,” Works said in the earlier post. “In fact, the 12 positive cases are nothing short of a high number, but only 2 of those cases are learners and the rest are staff.”

All three buildings will remain closed until Oct. 16, which will allow all staff to safely return after a 10-day quarantine period.

“The situation is a good reminder that the virus can spread very easily and quickly,” Works said. “It has also shown us that our protocols and procedures have been able to limit the spread among our learners.”

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