OAKLAND — Regional School Unit 18 Superintendent Carl Gartley said at Wednesday night’s board meeting that almost all of the district’s eight schools have someone with a close contact who has tested positive for coronavirus.

In his report at the regularly scheduled RSU 18 School Board meeting, Gartley updated members on the COVID-19 situation.

“We knew Thanksgiving would be a challenge,” Gartley said. “We have students and staff in most buildings that are quarantining.”

RSU 18 serves approximately 2,500 students from the towns of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Sidney and Rome.

On Monday, Messalonskee High School was dismissed early due to a student who was already quarantining testing positive for COVID-19. The entire high school is learning remotely through Monday to finish the 14-day quarantine requirement for anyone who was exposed in this situation.

“There are a lot of people who are very, very nervous and rightly so,” Gartley said. “It is very difficult right now and stressful.”

There was no virtual option available for the meeting held in person, but anyone could submit public comments to be heard through Gartley. None were submitted.

Approximately 85% of RSU 18 students are learning in-person five days per week, with the other 15% learning fully remotely. The high school will welcome back its in-person students for daily in-person learning Tuesday. About 750 total students attend Messalonskee High. The other RSU 18 schools were unaffected by the closure.

“It’s not something that we want to do, but it went very well,” Gartley said.

Gartley said there has been no evidence of transmission in the schools, backing up research that shows schools are an unlikely place for coronavirus transmission.

“I believe with everything I have, keeping the schools open and keeping the kids with us will keep us safe,” Gartley said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our kids and staff safe, and we’re continuing to do that.”

STANDARDIZED TESTING

Keith Morin, RSU 18’s assistant superintendent/chief academic officer, provided an update on the NWEA standardized testing results. In comparing last year’s fall results to this year’s, Morin said that in the big picture, “75% of all grades have grown.”

“I am not seeing any slight changes in the other direction,” Morin said.

The district has not dived into individual student goals, but analyzed data from the gradewide view.

ESPORTS

Board member John DeWitt reported a group of students made a presentation about an esports team to the extracurricular committee. Morin said there is an adult volunteer who is providing supervision, and the district will pilot the team during the upcoming season in January.

The board approved a motion to support the establishment of the club pilot program unanimously.

“It’s really going to be focusing on leadership development skills and communication skills,” DeWitt said.

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