Travis Works, executive director of the Community Regional Charter School, this week updated the number of cases of the COVID-19 outbreak at the school’s three buildings to 19. Morning Sentinel file photo

The number of COVID-19 cases in the outbreak at the Community Regional Charter School, formerly the Cornville Charter School, in Skowhegan and Cornville, has reached 19.

On Friday morning, Executive Director Travis Works confirmed that there are now 19 cases of COVID-19 within the charter school, 11 of them adults and eight of them students. Out of the eight students, two are children of the staff who tested positive, which Works said is “to be expected in a household.”

The breakdown of cases includes:

• Creative Children’s Academy in Skowhegan: four confirmed cases, four staff members.

• Dimensions Academy in Cornville: two confirmed cases, one a staff member and one a learner.

• Overman Academy and Eaton Mountain: 13 confirmed cases, six staff and seven learners.

“Looking at the breakdown, we were able to isolate the bulk of learners testing positive to a single cohort and minimizing the spread up to this point,” Works said in a letter home to families on Oct. 14.

Works said that the Creative Children’s Academy will reopen on Monday. Dimensions Academy and Overman Academy will reopen on Wednesday. Until then, remote learning will continue. An in-person staff workshop day is planned for Tuesday.

“While this is an unfortunate time, I am thankful to such a great community that has been understanding, supportive and really pulled together during a crisis,” Works said in the letter. “It truly does take a village and during this entire process, everyone has come together to be supportive and it really shows.”

Dimensions Academy at the former Cornville Elementary School on West Ridge Road in Cornville. According to school officials, In-person classes will resume next week. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

On Thursday, Works sent an email to staff explaining why the workshop is being held in-person.

“I have built this entire school system on the premise of putting people where they need to be socially and emotionally, whether they are children or adults,” Works said on Friday morning. “I also think that it is important that decisions also have transparency so everyone understands the rationale behind it because it makes it clear and eliminates speculation.”

In his message to the staff, Works said that the meeting will be held in-person on Tuesday and it will serve as a day to debrief, process and transition back into in-person learning.

“After 14 days on quarantine and not being around people, there is a chance that several of our staff will have a difficult time with the transition back,” the email said. “From their perspective, for the first day off quarantine to walk into a building with 100+ learners and 20 staff, it may prove to be a hard and difficult time emotionally and psychologically.”

The mental well-being of staff is something that Works says he is very sensitive about, which is why this meeting is to be considered a “soft reopening” for the benefit of the staff.

To break down how reopening would happen while there are still several cases of COVID-19, Works provided several different scenarios, saying that each is accurate and something that he has had to face.

“I wanted to highlight the complexity and some of the factors that have to be considered,” he said in a Friday morning email. “The virus itself presents many challenges for schools but also employers who will have to wrestle with the impact on the workforce. For individuals who live alone, it appears to be much more simplistic compared to households that don’t exhibit symptoms and/or test positive at the same time.”

Creative Children’s Academy of the Community Regional Charter School on South Factory Street in Skowhegan. According to school officials, In-person classes will resume next week. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

He broke each scenario down by each group, staff and students. Symptoms can take up to 13 days to appear since the last exposure, which is why a 14-day quarantine period is important and why Works said Community Regional Charter School chose to close. Each circumstance can yield a different return date depending on a variety of factors.

Staff and families have been surveyed and analyzed and the individual data received has been used to determine reopening dates.

Among those within the charter school system who have tested positive is Works himself, who said earlier this week that though his symptoms have been mild, the virus should be taken seriously.

“In all honesty, if I hadn’t taken the test, I would never have known I was positive. The symptoms were so mild and not out of the ordinary, which to me makes this virus very dangerous and concerning,” Works said in a message Monday. “The other factor that is a concern is that people test too early and they may not wait the 5-7 days after exposure or 48 hours after symptoms start.”

Overman Academy is in the building with the red awning and the canoe in the window on Water Street in Skowhegan. According to school officials, In-person classes will resume next week. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Through contact tracing, he said that he knows his contact has been contained and the people who were at risk to his exposure have all been tested. His wife and two children have tested negative and have not exhibited symptoms, and he is isolated at a different residence.

“I have been fortunate that my symptoms have been mild, and I have been able to work remotely. Having first-hand experience as someone infected, I want to share some insight that is helping us move forward,” Works said. “My first symptoms were nothing more than a headache and tight neck, which wasn’t out of the ordinary after being dehydrated the day prior. Within 48 hours I tested positive with no other symptoms, and since then the only other symptoms I have exhibited have been periods of exhaustion and fogginess.”

Works hopes that by talking about his experience with the virus, he is able to highlight that it can present itself with very subtle symptoms that may appear as allergies, a runny nose, a headache and/or tight muscles.

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