04 January 2022
Dear AOS 98 School Community Members, Students and Parents;
As you may be aware, there have been some changes to the rules that govern school responses to a positive case of COVID-19 (aka Standard Operating Procedure or SOP). Our primary goals remain the same – to maximize in person learning while ensuring student and staff safety. The vast majority of protocols we have in place will continue as they have allowed us to remain open safely for the majority of this pandemic. Please reach out to my office, your school administration, or your local school board if you would like to discuss this further.
A common question, and a source of confusion for many, is which guidelines are schools supposed to follow, especially when there are differences between the US and Maine CDC guidance and Maine CDC guidance:
- US Centers for Disease Control (US CDC) guidance for prevention measures for COVID-19
- Maine Center for Disease Control (Maine CDC) guidance for responding to a positive case of COVID-19. (SOP) A link to the updated SOP on the Maine Department of Education Website can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/doe/covid-19/sop
A few of the highlights and some notable changes in the SOP include:
- Exposures that occur in outdoor settings or on a school bus do not constitute a close contact and do not require quarantine, regardless of vaccination status. This applies even where there is physical contact in outdoor settings (e.g., during sporting events).
- Positive Test for COVID-19- Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to isolate for 5 days (instead of 10) and wear a mask around others for five days. If you are still symptomatic after the period of isolation please remain home and contact the school nurse for further guidance.
- Quarantine Exemptions: Close contacts must quarantine for 5 days from last COVID-19 exposure from school and school activities unless at least one of the following conditions applies:
1. The close contact (staff or student) is boosted; or
2. The close contact is a fully vaccinated 16-17 year old student who, according to the U.S. CDC, may receive a booster but has not yet done so; or
3. The close contact (staff or student) is not eligible for a booster but is fully vaccinated; or
4. The close contact (staff or student) completed their second mRNA dose within 6 months (or completed their J&J vaccine within two months); or
5. The close contact (staff or student) participates in school pooled testing; or
6. The school is enforcing a mandatory masking policy. (All of AOS98 Schools are doing this)
- Staff and students who do not fall within exceptions 1-6 above must quarantine if they are a close contact, regardless of the location of exposure.
- If the student or staff only fall within exceptions 5-6, they must quarantine in the community, per Maine CDC quarantine guidelines.
Quarantine and Isolation:
- The length of isolation for an individual who tests positive has been reduced from 10 days to 5 days
- The 5 day count start date depends on the specific individual case. Please contact your PCP or the school nurse for more information.
- A school will be considered to be in outbreak status if more than than 15% of the total school population (students and staff combined) is absent due to illness (Not necessarily COVID-19 but any illness).
- Parents will be notified when this occurs and what changes, if any, will occur as a result of being in outbreak status. Outbreak designation does not mean that schools will have to close.
- A school will be removed from outbreak status when there are 14 consecutive days with lower than a 15% absence rate due to illness for the total school population.
- Note: this is a return to what has been done previously for schools for other infectious diseases such as the flu or chickenpox et cetera.
While there have been, and will continue to be, differences of opinion on how best to proceed, I appreciate the civil tone of your conversations with me and am comforted by the knowledge that we are all striving for the same goal for our school community. There are likely to be more revisions to the SOP In the near future and I thank you for your continued cooperation and patience as we work to implement and refine our protocols designed to keep our schools safely open for in person learning.
Please reach out to my office if you have any questions.
Robert Kahler, Superintendent of Schools