Benton Elementary is one of three elementary schools in MSAD 49. Police distributed laptops to the homes of some 400 elementary students April 2 and 3 so they could pursue their studies online. Portland Press Herald file photo by Brianna Soukup

The superintendent in Maine School Administrative District 49 has reported another case of COVID-19 within the Fairfield-area district, bringing the total number of cases to five within the school system.

In a letter posted Tuesday to the MSAD 49 website, Superintendent Roberta Hersom wrote that a staff member at Benton Elementary School had tested positive. MSAD 49 serves the towns of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

After the staff member tested positive, Principal Brian Wedge and school nurse Natasha Barton began communicating with Emily Poland, the Maine Department of Education’s school nurse consultant, to identify possible contacts.

Hersom said that there are no other people associated with the school who are deemed a close contact.

“We are informing the school community for your awareness,” Hersom wrote. “Fortunately in this case, the closure of school for the Thanksgiving break created this circumstance of no impact to others at Benton.”

Hersom said that although there are no close contacts associated with the case at Benton Elementary, the district has observed more students missing school.

“While we have no other positive cases at this time, we are observing an increase in the number of individuals not reporting to school because they have been identified as close contacts from exposure outside of our schools, or are experiencing other seasonal illness,” Hersom wrote.

Hersom also reminded the district to continue taking precautions to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“As confirmed cases rise in Maine, it is important that we remain vigilant in our schools with adherence to physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, and careful self-monitoring of our health,” Hersom wrote.

This is the district’s fifth case of COVID-19.

Before Thanksgiving break, the district closed down Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield after two students and one staff member tested positive. A total of 98 students and 17 staff members were required to quarantine.

Other districts in central Maine announced this week that they will modify their instruction model due to an uptick in cases. These districts include Regional School Unit 18 in Oakland, RSU 19 in Newport, MSAD 54 in Skowhegan, MSAD 13 in Bingham and Waterville Public Schools.

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