Travis Works, executive director of the Community Regional Charter School, seen in February 2019, said this week that all 20 who tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered and the case has been closed. Morning Sentinel file photo

The outbreak investigation at Community Regional Charter School in Cornville and Skowhegan, formerly the Cornville Charter School, has been closed, after a total of 20 cases of COVID-19.

Robert Long, spokesperson for Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, confirmed on Friday that the outbreak investigation closed on Nov. 12.

Thursday marked 28 days, or two incubation periods, without an active case within the school system.

Travis Works, executive director of the charter school, said that 20 cases of COVID-19 were within the charter school: 11  adults, two children of staff members that tested positive and seven students. Each person has recovered.

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 noninstructional 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.

The situation was deemed an outbreak around Oct. 8. 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.

Works said in a message earlier this week that an electronic symptom checker has been put in place that is mandatory for all staff to use daily and parents can elect to use.

“Out of the 11 adults that tested positive, the majority had minor symptoms or were asymptomatic and therefore we are even more hyper vigilant when it comes to minor symptoms,” Works said.

Another factor, which is not an issue specific to the charter school system, he said, is that staff are having a difficult time calling out if sick. To combat this, he says that staff are allowed to stay home and work from home while a substitute remains in the classroom.

“The reality is that we work in a field that pre-COVID staff would drag themselves in sick to be with learners because they want to be at work,” Works said. “Every school I have worked in faces that challenge, and staff have a difficult time calling out because they have a sense of duty and commitment to children.”

He added that this is typical in most schools because the nature of educators is that they want to be with their students and having someone else step in is difficult.

“During a pandemic the mandate to stay at home is a direct conflict for so many educators that are giving their all to provide the best learning opportunities for children. This is not a problem in just our district, but for all schools across the state and country,” he said.

Additionally, if teachers stay home to teach lessons, their sick time is not being docked as Works says that their contribution to learners and their schools are valued.

Shared office space for staff has also been reduced, and administrators who are able to perform their duties remotely are being asked to do so to reduce the number of people in the buildings and also to allow for spaces to be used by a single person and not shared.

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