READFIELD — State officials have declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Maranacook Community High School following an investigation into nearly 30 cases at the school over the last two weeks.

Classes will continue to be remote for the rest of the week.

Regional School Unit 38 Superintendent Jay Charette said in a letter to the community Wednesday that the school has been in “outbreak status” since March 30 and will remain so through at least April 15. It did not receive the designation until state investigators completed their study, and will be reevaluated at the end of next week.

An outbreak is declared if 15% of the school’s population is absent, according to updated guidelines from the state’s Department of Education and Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Maranacook Community High School is one of seven schools throughout the state experiencing an outbreak as of Thursday, according to the state dashboard.

Robert Long, spokesperson for the Maine CDC, said March 30 is the date of the earliest confirmed case associated with the outbreak investigation and cases reported after that date “revealed epidemiological links” to that case.

At this time, Maranacook Community High School is the only school in the district that is remote and in an outbreak status.

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Regional School Unit 38 includes the towns of Readfield, Manchester, Mount Vernon and Wayne.

At a meeting Wednesday night, Charette told the school board he did not recommend changing COVID-19 protocols at the high school. He said the situation at Maranacook Community High School “feels pretty contained” and said the school officials are “trying to weather the storm.” There were 28 cases at the school last Friday, and Charette did not provide an updated number Wednesday.

Maranacook Community Middle School, which had six cases as of Wednesday, is not impacted by the outbreak status or by going remote even though the school has had COVID-19 cases because the spread is not directly linked to an outbreak, Charette said. There is only one student case within the elementary schools.

“I think it’s going to pass, especially with April vacation,” Charette said. That break begins April 18.

The school board had no further discussion regarding the COVID-19 cases.

While the school will remain in outbreak status until at least April 15, classes can resume in-person if enough staff members are healthy and present. In the areas of food service, the main office, teaching staff and with substitute teachers, the district is especially short-staffed.

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In the “best case scenario,” the high school will be back to in-person learning Monday, Charette said.

Charette said at the board meeting that seven additional staff members, including three at the high school, have contracted COVID-19. When he shared statistics on April 1, there were eight staff members out with COVID-19.

“The food service department has been particularly hit hard with no available staff to keep the department running,” he said in the letter Wednesday.

The decision to be remote was “not made lightly,” Charette added.

RSU 38 has tried to maintain normalcy in the situation by continuing afterschool activities and transporting Capital Area Technical Center students with alternative methods.

“At the high school level, many of the teaching staff with COVID-19 have been able to continue to teach their classes remotely, which has kept students connected and engaged,” Charette said. “Please also recognize that schools are made up of many departments and systems to effectively function. When one system or department is down, it can usually be covered by others, but when two to three of those systems go down, the capacity to cover all pieces becomes exponentially more difficult to run ‘normally.'”

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