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

The total number of COVID-19 cases at the Community Regional Charter School in Cornville and Skowhegan, formerly the Cornville Charter School, has reached 20, though all have recovered.

Though there are no active cases, school Executive Director Travis Works said his contact at Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention said that in order to close an outbreak, the school system must go 28 days (two incubation periods) with zero cases identified before the outbreak is officially closed. Since the last reported case was tested on Oct. 14, that determination would be made Nov. 11.

Works said that there have been 20 cases of COVID-19 within the charter school: 11  adults, two children of staff members that tested positive and seven students. Each case has recovered, though some people within the school system are still in quarantine because they are in the same household as a person who tested positive.

“While it is very unfortunate that we had a high amount of cases, the data does show that we were able to isolate it primarily between staff and mostly in a single cohort of learners,” Works said in a letter to families Wednesday.

The breakdown of cases per school:
• Creative Children’s Academy in Skowhegan: four cases, four staff members.
• Dimensions Academy in Cornville: two cases, one staff member and one student; student is a staff member’s child.
• Overman Academy and Eaton Mountain: 14 cases, six staff members, seven students and one child of a staff member.

While looking at Overman Academy’s data, Works said that of the six staff members who tested positive, three occupy non-instructional positions or do not have teaching responsibilities.

Of the eight children who tested positive, six were in a single cohort, which leaves one learner in another cohort and the other a staff member’s child.

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

The situation was deemed an outbreak about two weeks ago. The decision was made to close all buildings Oct. 6 and shift to remote learning to allow those with direct contact to quarantine. On Oct. 19, students at Creative Children’s Academy returned to the classroom, and the students at Dimensions Academy and Overman Academy returned Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, Works said, one cohort at Overman Academy is continuing to work remotely as two out of the three staff members on that cohort have spouses who tested positive. The two staff members on that cohort must quarantine for 14 days after their spouse has completed their quarantine, Works said.

“This presented us with a challenge, and we decided that it was best to put the entire cohort out on remote learning due to staffing shortages,” Works said. “That cohort will be out on remote learning for the next couple of weeks.”

Works said that the Eaton Mountain cohort is utilizing space at Overman Academy.

Last week, Works sent an email to staff explaining why the staff workshop was to be held in-person Tuesday. Works said that the workshop will serve as a day to debrief, process and transition back to in-person learning as some may have a difficult time transitioning after a 14-day quarantine.

“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 last week. “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.”

“Tuesday provided time for staff members to have critical conversations prior to the return of learners on Wednesday,” Works said. “We were able to debrief, dissect the data and address the emotional stress that our entire community is facing with the return of in-person learners.”

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

In his email to families sent Wednesday, he said that of the 11 members who tested positive, the majority of them were asymptomatic or experienced minor symptoms. Works said that because of this, “there is a great deal of guilt that was being carried by the staff that we needed to address” prior to having students return to the classroom.

“The fact is that nobody came to work with the knowledge that they could potentially spread the virus, or with the intent to spread the virus,” Works said. “Despite our best efforts and intentions, it happened, and we had an outbreak.”

Works said that with the pandemic potentially lasting another 18-24 months, it cannot be ignored that any large business or organization will be living with and experiencing outbreaks off and on. “We cannot just go 100% remote out of fear, but we have to be sensitive that this pandemic will and already has taken an emotional toll on people.”

For staff, Works said that they will continue to be supportive and understanding of their needs in order to safely provide educational opportunities to the students.

As for students, 25% of learners are now learning remotely full-time, allowing the school system to avoid shifting to a hybrid model where learners alternate their days. Students are in session five days a week and class sizes are around 10.

Works said that the school system is planning to renovate a space that was previously occupied by Skill’s Thrift Store, giving them 3,000 additional square feet. The additional space will allow the Eaton Mountain cohort back in the building for large amounts of time instead of spending the entire day at Eaton Mountain.

“I know that this quarantine period wasn’t easy for anyone, and we are going to be facing some challenging times in the future,” Works said. “We will continue to reflect and refine what we do so that we can improve and do better.”


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