Portland High School has canceled all in-person classes, learning center sessions and activities for the rest of the week after a person connected to the school tested positive for COVID-19.

It is the third COVID-19 infection within the high school community in the past 14 days. Assistant Superintendent of School Management Aaron Townsend did not say whether the infected person is a student, staff member or teacher in order to safeguard their privacy.

High school staff were made aware of the latest case in a notification sent Wednesday by Townsend.

“This email is to inform you that another individual associated with Portland High School recently tested positive for COVID-19 due to an exposure outside school,” Townsend said in his notification. “We are informing all staff and families out of an abundance of caution as this individual has not been at school during their infectious period and there has been no exposure within the school community.”

Townsend said the cancellation of in-person classes, meetings and activities is in effect Thursday and Friday. He did not indicate whether it might extend into next week, but said the district would notify staff and families as soon as more information about the case is available.

School district spokeswoman Tess Nacelewicz said the district is confident that no one at the high school was exposed because the person was not present during their infectious period.


“Our families and staff have done a great job communicating with us, and our team of district nurses continue to do an outstanding job tracking all of these cases,” Nacelewicz wrote in an email. “It is important to underscore that, to date, only one of the nine positive cases in the district resulted from contact in the school setting.”

The decision comes after Portland Public Schools announced this week that it plans to increase the amount of in-person learning for students at Portland and Deering high schools later this month – having them attend school twice weekly during “Learning Center” hours.

The Learning Center is an established time when students can access in-person or virtual office hours and other support outside the core classes they take remotely. The decision to increase the amount of in-person learning could be reversed.

“We are not starting to bring students back for another two weeks. Between now and then, we will monitor the COVID cases in our schools and make any changes to our plans based on that information,” Nacelewicz said.

Students at Casco Bay High School have had an assigned day for the Learning Center based on their grade level, while students at Deering and Portland high schools have not been required to attend but have been encouraged to utilize the Learning Center at least once per week.

Townsend told staff and families that Portland schools are following local and state protocols to ensure health and safety. Anyone who may have come into close contact with the infected person will be notified by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention or a school representative. Close contacts will be asked to quarantine for 14 days from their last known date of exposure.


Portland is not the only school district coping with COVID-19 outbreaks while trying to protect students and staff from the highly contagious virus, which has been spreading faster in Maine in recent weeks.

Thornton Academy in Saco earlier this week moved to all remote learning after the administration learned that three people associated with the school tested positive for COVID-19. Thornton will return to in-person learning after the Thanksgiving break, on Nov. 30. The school will also halt all athletics and in-person after-school activities during the closure.

Yarmouth High School reported Nov. 1 that one case of COVID-19 had been discovered at the school, forcing about 40 people who had contact with the infected person to quarantine. School officials did not say whether that person was a staff member or student.

More than 50 students and staff at York High School had to quarantine late last month after an individual affiliated with the school tested positive for COVID-19.

The public can get an overview of how widespread public school outbreaks are in Maine by going to a state website that tracks the number of COVID-19 cases in grades Pre-k through 12 over the past 30 days.

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