AUGUSTA — The city school district still has only one case of COVID-19, the superintendent said Wednesday, a week after a student who was already quarantining tested positive.

The Augusta Public School system had their first COVID-19 case at Gilbert Elementary School last week, prompting most of the discussion at Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Augusta Superintendent James Anastasio said that so far, the case at the elementary school is the only positive case COVID-19 that the district has seen, despite other students having to quarantine out of caution.

Anastasio said that when the student that tested positive alerted school officials, the student was already in quarantine and was not considered a threat to other students.

“We have had one student that tested positive,” he said. “The first situation, we had 18 students in quarantine,” who were due to return to school Thursday. He added that 28 students “were initially in the child care facility, had to quarantine, and they come back next week. We have had students quarantine, but it wasn’t from active cases.”

Augusta Superintendent James Anastasio at Wednesday’s Augusta School Board meeting.

On the Maine Department of Education’s online COVID-19 dashboard, which keeps track of the active coronavirus cases in the state, it does not mention any of the Augusta Schools on the list of schools with active cases.

“It has happened all around us, to schools all around us and a school within Augusta,” Anastasio said. “We have been lucky, and we hope to remain lucky.”

St. Michael Catholic School in Augusta has also reported a positive COVID-19 case, in addition to multiple cases in Regional School Unit 12, RSU 38 and RSU 2. The common precaution among schools in Kennebec County that have positive COVID-19 cases has been to switch to a fully remote learning option for two weeks.

Assistant Superintendent Katie Grondin said school officials often hear of COVID-19 cases in other schools “quickly,” from either staff, parents, or through social media. Grondin and Anastasio work together to figure out how to react to the case, using guidelines from the Maine education department and the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

“You can imagine the pressure on the staff,” Grondin said. “They do not want an outbreak, and we want students and staff to be safe.”

Anastasio pointed out that the Maine education department and CDC are working on a number of other cases, and may not get back to the school district right away.

In the case of last week’s positive COVID-19 case, Anastasio did not hear back from the education department until two days later, so in the meantime, he made his decision about Gilbert Elementary School based on what other districts in the area are doing.

“I check in regularly with the school nurses,” Grondin said. “They’re trying to keep the school moving forward, and they also have the weight of ‘What if?’ We tell them to do the best that they can and to take it one day at a time.”

Now, the schools within the Augusta Public Schools are doing a hybrid learning approach, where students split their time up between learning from home three days a week, and learning in-person two days a week.

Coronavirus relief funds were also discussed, with Anastasio giving the update that the first round of relief funds’ budget has been approved and needs to be spent by Dec. 30.

In total, the Augusta Public Schools have received $4.4 million in the two rounds of the funding. The second round’s budget overview is due Thursday.

The board passed a donation of 300 backpacks from Walmart to Gilbert Elementary School. Sarah Landry, the principal of Gilbert, said the backpacks have helped students bring home devices, and that it has worked “extremely well.” The donation came from a parent of a student at Gilbert that works at Walmart.

Meanwhile, the first Wednesdays of every month, starting in November, will serve as a workshop day for teachers, and no classes will be held remotely or in person.

“We are asking them (teachers) to do something that they have never done before,” Anastasio said about remote learning. “People need more professional development this year than ever before.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.