SKOWHEGAN — The Maine School Administrative District 54 superintendent reviewed cases of COVID-19 that have occurred in the district with the school board Thursday evening at Skowhegan Area Middle School and indicated that if Somerset County were to revert to the “green” status it had at the beginning of the school year, after-school activities would resume by the same rules as then.

As of Thursday, the district has seen 16 cases of COVID-19 total, Superintendent Jon Moody said in his update. Among those, eight cases have been students, four staff members and four were among those who were infected outside of school and were not near school facilities at any time when they had the virus, he said.

He added that his intent is to provide updates on the district’s website biweekly beginning at the start of the new year.

“We’re not talking apples to apples when comparing districts, and I think it’s important to know that,” Moody said. “We’ve put out whenever we’ve had a positive case.”

Moody said that when possible, the administration has identified whether a positive case was a student or staff member. If the case affects a larger group, it is not as identifiable. He added he uses the same metric for assessment data in order to provide more assurance in the information to the community and staff.

“I won’t identify it if it’s smaller,” he said.

Currently, Somerset County remains “yellow” under the Maine Department of Education’s reopening advisory system, meaning there is a moderate level of community risk.

Should the county shift to “red,” there is a plan in place for remote learning, and each school within the district is preparing families for the possibility, Assistant Superintendent Mark Hatch has previously said.

At Skowhegan Area Middle School, an outbreak investigation was opened late last month after an increase in cases of COVID-19.

The virus was contracted outside of schools, according to school officials.

After speaking with local health professionals, the Maine Center for Disease Control and families in the district, school officials decided to move sixth-graders to remote learning for the week. Grades seven and eight, also housed at the middle school, have continued to study under the hybrid model.

Moody’s recommendation for winter sports, should Somerset County shift back to “green,” is to resume activities. After-school programs would follow rules and schedules similar to those observed in the fall before the county shifted to “yellow.” This includes sports and clubs and activities. For now, no updates have been provided to officials on music programs.

“That’s what we did in the fall, and we saw a lot of success,” Moody said. “We had very minimal issues. There was no transmission and no issues of kids getting COVID-19 as a result of athletics.”

He added that there was an athlete who tested positive during the season, and as a result the number of people who were quarantining increased.

“All of this can only occur if we’re ‘green,'” Moody said, and his recommendation was carried by the board.

MSAD 54 serves the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan.

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