The Augusta Board of Education meeting, held Wednesday night over the Zoom videoconferencing platform. Emily Duggan

AUGUSTA — Schools in Augusta will switch to a full-time remote learning schedule for the week after Thanksgiving to help prevent a possible spread of the coronavirus.

The Augusta Board of Education unanimously approved Superintendent James Anastasio’s recommendation at its meeting Wednesday night.

Anastasio raised the prospect as he discussed what other school districts in Maine were considering as the holiday season approaches.

“Three cases are community spread, so we don’t know what to expect,” he said of a potential spread. “It could happen just in one building.”

The board’s decision came as Maine is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 183 reported Thursday.

Augusta Public Schools has posted a holiday travel plan for families on its website. It advises that before students return to school, families quarantine for 14 days or have a COVID-19 test 72 hours after traveling to states outside areas approved by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

Most recently, Anastasio reported a positive case of COVID-19 on Tuesday at Hussey Elementary School.

The positive test at Hussey was revealed at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Education. Two other positive cases — at Farrington Elementary and Gilbert Elementary schools — were known before Tuesday’s letter, but not included in Anastasio’s letter.

“In all of the situations that we have had so far, there hasn’t been a district or community impact,” Anastasio said at the meeting. “What has happened so far is that the letters have been specific to the community that has had the impact. I understand there is a lot of crossover from school to school, so moving forward, it may make sense to notify everyone.”

Assistant Superintendent Katherine Grondin supplied the Board of Education with the following information about current cases within Augusta Public Schools:

• Farrington Elementary School: Two positive cases and 21 people who were within close contact. Seven people are being monitored closely.

• Gilbert Elementary School: One positive case and 15 who were within close contact. Seven are being monitored closely.

• Hussey Elementary School: One case, reported Tuesday, and 34 who were within close contact. Nine are being tracked.

• Lincoln Elementary School: No active cases, but four who were within close contact. Fifteen are being tracked.

• Cony Middle and High School and Capital Area Technical School: No active cases, but four who were within close contact. Twenty-three are being tracked.

A chart provided by Augusta school officials that illustrate the active COVID-19 cases at in the public school system.

Since the district decided to close Hussey Elementary School, Grondin said officials thought the announcement should have come from the superintendent.

“There are a lot of factors that went into the decision,” she said. “We noted that (the news of the case at) Farrington wasn’t on Facebook, and we already moved on, so we didn’t want to confuse parents. We are trying to do our best to make sure things are clear.”

Amanda Olson, the newly elected chairwoman of the Board of Education, asked if students could switch from cohorts A or B into C, for a fully remote learning method, if families are not comfortable sending their children to school. Cohorts A and B switch between an in-person hybrid learning model and a remote, learn-from-home model.

Anastasio said he believed students should be able to switch, but families should check with school principals.

Before students and teachers arrive at school, they are expected to check themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.

Olson asked if there should be any updates to the screener tool, with the expanded symptoms that were added by the Maine CDC.

“It would make sense, but the nurses have regular meetings with department advisers,” Anastasio said. “There is a group that looks at standard operating procedures, and nurses are on top of that and shared it. It may have to be done more, but there are weekly meetings.”

The Board of Education also voted to approve backpacks, valued at a total of $600, from Feed the Children, which are to be distributed to students who need them at the elementary schools or high school.

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