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2021-2022 COVID NEWS AND INFORMATION

Last Updated: 10/22/2021 4:37 PM

Important websites:

2021-2022 RSU5 Reopening of School Plan
On August 25, 2021 the Board of Directors voted to approve the Reopening of School Plan.  Click HERE to read the plan

Click HERE for the RSU5 American Recovery Plan Summary

Student Health Screening
Please do the COVID Pre-Screening for School Attendance of your children before they leave for school. Please keep students home when they're sick. If your student is absent, please call the school to update them with a reason for the absence.

Pooled Testing Information and Forms for DCS, PES, MSS, MLS
Click HERE to access information and permission forms for Pooled Testing
Pooled Testing FAQ's
Recording of the 9-14-21 Q&A on Pooled Testing - After clicking the link, please wait for the video to start. It will begin at 14 seconds.


Below is correspondence Superintendent Foley has sent out to families (most recent at the top)

October 22, 2021
 
Dear Staff and Families,
We had four new positive cases since my letter last week: one at FHS, one at FMS, one at MLS, and one at DCS. In RSU5, we are now at 41 confirmed positive cases. We’ve had seven cases in the past fourteen days. Our vaccination rate with our staff remains at 95.43%. 

We are ahead of  schedule and will expand pooled testing to Freeport Middle School on Monday, October 25. We will begin pooled testing at the  Freeport High School on Tuesday, November 2.  I encourage everyone to consider this option as it is one more mitigation strategy to keep our healthy students in school five days a week.  Whether  you participate in pooled testing or not, you need to keep your child home if they are symptomatic. 

I have received a couple of questions in the past week. Attached is a communication outlining what you need to do for your child to return to school after being ill. I hope this clarifies some of the confusion that currently exists about when you can send your child back to school. 

Some have asked why we notify families about new COVID cases. As part of the “Standard Operating Procedure” that is provided by the Department of Education  and that is posted  on our website, the Maine CDC recommends that school community members be notified when a confirmed or probable case is detected that is associated with the school. This is one reason why I  send out a weekly communication and principals send out notification within 48 hours of knowing about new cases in their schools. This is not to raise fear in our community.  It is to keep everyone as well informed as we can. 

Due to our continued collective efforts, we are succeeding in keeping our schools open. Thank you for your part in this ongoing effort!
 
Sincerely,

Becky Foley 
Superintendent 
foleyb@rsu5.org
 

October 15, 2021
 
Dear Staff and Families,

We had five new positive cases since my last letter: one at MSS, one at PES, and three at DCS. In RSU5, we are now at 37 confirmed positive cases. We’ve had eight cases in the past fourteen days. 

We are on schedule to expand pooled testing to the middle and high school no later than Tuesday, November 2.  I encourage everyone to consider this option as it is one more mitigation strategy to keep our healthy students in school five days a week.  I would also advise that even if you participate in pooled testing, you need to keep your child home if they are symptomatic. 

According to the CDC data,  Freeport, South Freeport, and Pownal have a 99% vaccination rate, and Durham has a 97% rate of those who are eligible for a vaccine. Our vaccination rate with our staff is 95.43%. 

Due to our collective efforts,  we are succeeding in keeping our schools open. Thank you for your continued support!
 
Sincerely,


Becky Foley 
Superintendent 
foleyb@rsu5.org

 

October 9, 2021
 
Dear Staff and Families,
We have had five new positive cases since my last letter: one at MSS, one at FHS, and three at DCS. In RSU5, we are now at 32 confirmed positive cases. We’ve had seven cases in the past fourteen days. 

We are working out the logistics for pooled testing at FMS and FHS. We anticipate beginning no later than Tuesday, November 2.  I encourage everyone to consider this option as it is one more mitigation strategy to keep our healthy students in school five days a week.  

According to the CDC data,  Freeport, South Freeport, and Pownal have a 99% vaccination rate, and Durham has a 97% rate of those who are eligible for a vaccine. Our vaccination rate with our staff has increased to  95.43%. Our rate with staff will next be updated in November. 

Due to our collective efforts,  we are succeeding in keeping our schools open. Please do not send your children to school if they are symptomatic. This creates situations where our healthy students are then sent home to quarantine when they would be better served being at school. 
 
Thank you for your continued support!
 
Sincerely,

Becky Foley, Superintendent 
foleyb@rsu5.org
 

October 1, 2021

Dear Staff and Families,

We  had three new positive cases since my last letter: one at PES and two at DCS. In RSU5, we are now at 27 confirmed positive cases. We had far fewer cases than last week and I hope this is an indicator that we may be trending down with our numbers. 

Our second week of pooled testing went well. Across the four schools, there was only one positive vial found. The follow up BINAX testing identified the positive case  and all contact tracing was completed. We have decided to expand the pooled testing to FMS and FHS.  This will begin no later than the beginning of November. Just as we did at the elementary schools, we are working out all of the logistics that are needed before beginning. I encourage everyone to consider this option as it is one more mitigation strategy to keep our healthy students in school five days a week.  

According to the CDC data,  Freeport, South Freeport, and Pownal have a 99% vaccination rate, and Durham has a 97% rate of those who are eligible for a vaccine. Our vaccination rate with our staff is 94.91%. Our rate with staff will be updated for October by my next update. We are currently collecting this data. 

Due to our collective efforts,  we are succeeding in keeping our schools open. Please do not send your children to school if they are symptomatic. This creates situations where our healthy students are then sent home to quarantine when they would be better served being at school. 

Thank you for your continued support!

 Sincerely,

Becky Foley, Superintendent 
foleyb@rsu5.org
 

September 24, 2021
 
Dear Staff and Families,

We  had ten new positive cases since my last letter: one at FMS, one at MLS, one at MSS, one at PES, and six at DCS. In RSU5, we are now at 24 confirmed positive cases. We are in contact with the CDC on a regular basis, and with our precautionary measures, we feel confident in remaining open for five day a week learning. 

Our first week of pooled testing went well. Across the four schools, there was only one positive vial found. The follow up BINAX testing identified the positive case  and all contact tracing was completed. Once we complete another week of pooled testing at the elementary level. we will decide whether to expand to FMS and FHS.  A reminder that we cannot accept the BINAX test results that are given at home. The “Covid rules” are created by the CDC as they have the most medical expertise. They adjust their procedures as they learn more, and we then update our procedures and follow their advice. 

According to the CDC data as of September 19, Freeport now has 372 reported cases, Durham has 191, South Freeport remains at 6-19 cases, and Pownal remains at 20-49 cases. Freeport, South Freeport, and Pownal have a 99% vaccination rate, and Durham has a 97% rate of those who are eligible for a vaccine. Our vaccination rate with our staff is 94.91%. Our rate with staff will be updated monthly. We are required to have the next round of data in by October 10. 
  
Together I am confident that we can succeed. Please do not send your children to school if they are symptomatic. This creates situations where our healthy students are then sent home to quarantine when they would be better served being at school. 
 
I want to acknowledge that this is not easy for any of us as we were hoping the pandemic would be far behind us by now.  Thank you for your continued support!
 
Sincerely,

Becky Foley 
Superintendent 
foleyb@rsu5.org
 

 

September 18, 2021

 Dear Staff and Families,

We have just finished our third week of the school year. We  had two new positive cases this week in RSU5: one at FHS and one at MSS. All contact tracing was completed.  Even if your child is vaccinated, we will notify you by email if your child is considered a close contact so that you can monitor him/her closely. 

We are in outbreak status at DCS and FHS. We will probably be in that status all year long because to get out of that status, you need to go 28 days without a case. Based upon how the data is trending and our data from last year, I do not see us going 28 days without a case at either of those schools.

In RSU5, we are now at 14 confirmed cases. This exceeds the 13 cases that we had in January and March which were our highest monthly case counts last year.   

 I’m happy to report that we had 39 participants at our Q & A on pooled testing this past week. Currently, 57% of our eligible families are opting into pooled testing. We are ready to begin the pooled testing on Monday at our four elementary schools. Once we are up and running. we will decide whether to expand to FMS and FHS.

Together we can succeed. I want to thank you for your support as we continue to navigate COVID and adapt our routines as necessary to keep staff and students safe.

Sincerely,


Becky Foley 
Superintendent RSU5

 

September 10, 2021

Dear Families,

We hope you will be able to attend a question/answer session next week on Tuesday, September 14th from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. on pooled testing. This will be a Zoom meeting that can be accessed at https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/86113296774  Webinar ID: 861 1329 6774 or by telephone at  1-312-626-6799.  Dr. Stephanie Phelps, our school physician, will be joining us to answer your medical questions around pooled testing. Abigail Leavitt, school nurse at PES, will also be available for questions as she is coordinating RSU5’s pooled testing efforts. We have created a FAQ sheet that can be accessed HERE.

I hope to provide you with an update on where we are with the logistics of pooled testing as we prepare to begin testing students and staff on Monday, September 20, 2021 in all of our elementary schools.  

Since my letter to you last week, we have had nine additional cases in RSU 5: four at DCS, one at MSS, and four at FHS. We have had a total of twelve cases since school has begun. DCS and FHS are now in “outbreak status.” Our biggest concern is the number of students needing to quarantine. To lessen this number, we encourage you to have your child vaccinated or to participate in pooled testing. Additionally, if your child is symptomatic, please do not send them to school. 

I want to thank you for your support as we continue to navigate these challenging times!

​​With gratitude,


Dr. Becky J. Foley
Superintendent of RSU5

 

September 8, 2021

Dear Staff, and Families, 

This letter is to inform you that due to recent cases at Freeport High School and Durham Community School, these two schools have been identified to be in “outbreak status”  by the Maine CDC. An outbreak status means that there are three or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period that are not linked to the same family.  

The biggest change that occurs when in outbreak status is that we are required to contact trace everyone in a classroom rather than limit it to others who are within a 3 foot radius. The only way out of having to quarantine is either by having been vaccinated or by participating in pooled testing. We hope to have pooled testing available as of September 20 at DCS. The available option at FHS at this time is through being vaccinated. 

A school representative will contact you directly if you are identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive. Close contacts will be asked to quarantine for 10-days from last exposure to the positive individual. A negative test result does not get an individual out of quarantine.

Although we have shared these practices and suggestions previously, I do want to reinforce the importance of individual responsibility in helping all of our students stay healthy and remain in school. We ask that you continue to monitor symptoms daily, and have your child follow all the same guidelines for facemasks, social distancing, and hand sanitizing even when they are not at school.  Limiting social interactions is also very beneficial during this time.  If you have any doubts if your child has symptoms, then please keep them home until you are confident they are fine or you have an alternate diagnosis. Based on recommendations from the Maine CDC, we are also cleaning the school/classrooms to help prevent spread of COVID-19. 

Questions for the schools can be directed to Principal Gulko and Emily Guyer at FHS or Principal Pidden and Kim Gormely at DCS. For general COVID-19 questions, dial 211 (or 1-866-811-5695). Call a health care provider for questions about your symptoms. More information can be found at www.rsu5.org.  We remain steadfast in our commitment to in person learning in RSU 5. Through the collective efforts of our staff, parents, students and community members, we can get through this. We appreciate your support and partnership during these challenging times! 

Sincerely,


Becky Foley
Superintendent RSU5

 

September 2, 2021
 
Dear Staff and Families,

We have just finished our first week of the new school year. We are excited to have all students back in school and learning five days a week! This year,  I will be sending out a weekly update when we have positive COVID cases, rather than the daily ones you received last year. We have had three positive cases this week: one at FHS and two at DCS. All contact tracing has been completed. 
 
Our goal is to navigate the school year with as few cases as possible. This will take the collective efforts of all of us.  We ask that you monitor symptoms daily, and have your child follow all the same guidelines for facemasks, social distancing, and hand washing even when they are not at school. If you have any doubts if your child has symptoms, then please keep them home until you are confident they are fine or you have an alternate diagnosis. We also encourage you to inform the school as soon as you know your child has tested positive.  

Together we can succeed. I want to thank you for your support as we continue to navigate these pandemic times!

Sincerely,

Becky Foley 
Superintendent RSU 5

 

August 29, 2021

Dear Families and Staff,

We’re so excited to offer the opportunity of pooled testing to our families in RSU 5.  We were not able to offer this mitigation strategy last year. Pooled testing will significantly reduce the impact of needing to quarantine our youngest and unvaccinated learners. This is not available for the first day of school, but we are working to have it available soon for our students at DCS, PES, MLS, and MSS. The pooled testing program is funded by the Maine Department of Education and is free to students and staff who participate. 

General Information. Pooled testing involves mixing several test samples together in a “batch” or “pool” and testing the pooled sample with a PCR test for detection of COVID-19. If a pooled test result is negative, then all individuals within that pool are presumed negative and may remain in school. If a pooled test result is positive, then all individuals in the pool must be retested individually with a rapid antigen test to identify the positive case. Only the individual testing positive must be sent home to quarantine. 

Benefits of Pooled Testing.  

  • Multiple factors make pooled testing an effective mitigation strategy, including the lack of access to vaccines in this age group. 
  • Pooled testing is another tool, along with masking, handwashing, and isolating symptomatic individuals, to keep communities safe, reduce transmission, and build confidence that it’s safe to go to school.
  • Pooled testing provides additional information to school buildings and the district about the prevalence of the virus in our school community.
  • Pooled testing is a mitigation strategy for working parents who find it difficult to take time off of work when non-symptomatic children have to quarantine. This eliminates the need for students participating in the pooled testing having to quarantine, unless he/she is the individual testing positive. 

Procedures for Pooled Testing.

  • Testing takes place weekly. In most cases this will likely be a self-swab in their classrooms. 
  • The swab is a gentle process in the front of the nose only and should cause no discomfort. 
  • Testing an entire classroom or cohort usually takes about 10-15 minutes and speeds up after the first day. 
  • It will usually take 24-48 hours to receive pooled test results. No one needs to quarantine while awaiting pooled test results. 
  • If the pooled test returns with a positive result, then individual tests are given on all participants within the pooled testing. 
  • Once the positive case is identified, that individual is sent home to quarantine. Anyone else who is not participating in the pooled testing in the classroom may have to quarantine depending on distancing requirements and the minutes exposed to the positive case.  The RSU 5 nurses will be consulting with the CDC about the students and staff needing to quarantine who are not participating in the pooled testing. This consultation with the CDC will be the same as last year.
  • Those who are in the pooled testing, not having tested positive, will not have to quarantine. 

Participation. A permission sign-off to participate or opt out of pooled testing will be sent out once we are ready to begin the testing. There will be two permission slips to sign, one to participate in pooled testing, and secondly, one for Binex Test to be administered if needed. Without a signed consent, a student cannot participate in pooled testing. This is strictly a voluntary program. 

The entire reopening plan can be fully accessed HERE.  Please feel free to email me with any other questions or concerns. We hope to have the pooled testing operational as soon as possible. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Becky J. Foley
Superintendent of RSU5

August 27, 2021

Dear Families and Staff,

We are excited to welcome students back to school beginning Monday, August 30. This past Wednesday, the RSU 5 Board of Directors passed our reopening plan unanimously. Below are the highlights from the plan that can be fully accessed HERE.

  • Returning to Full In-Person Learning. We’re excited to welcome students back to full, in- person learning. There is no hybrid model in the revised plan. We will pivot between green and red. Red will be used when classes, grade levels, or schools need to learn remotely due to quarantining. We hope this is a rare occurrence this year.
     
  • Masking. Like most districts in our vicinity, we will require all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks indoors. They are already required on buses, vans and other modes of transportation. Masks may be removed outdoors, while eating/drinking, or on mask breaks. Mask breaks will occur daily.
     
  • Stay home when sick. Students who have symptoms of infectious illness should stay home until no longer symptomatic. Staying home when sick is essential to keeping infections out of the schools and preventing the spread to others. Families will be required to screen their children daily before sending them to school.
     
  • Pooled Testing: We have decided to move forward with pooled testing at MSS, MLS, DCS, and PES. Our youngest students are most vulnerable as the vaccine is not yet available to them. Our application for pooled testing has been accepted. We will begin this program as soon as possible.
     
  • Vaccinations. The COVID vaccine is widely available and remains the best approach to protecting the health of our children and one another. We encourage all students and staff who have not yet been vaccinated to seek out the guidance of their family physician. Data released yesterday from the DOE/DHHS on our students shows that of those eligible, 90- 94% of our students are vaccinated.

We can’t wait to see your children on Monday! Please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns. Thanks for your continued support.

With gratitude,

 
   

Dr. Becky J. Foley Superintendent of RSU5

 

August 13, 2021

Dear RSU5 Families and Staff, 

I hope you are enjoying your summer! The first day of school is quickly approaching. We will be returning to full time, in-person learning on August 30th. We have drafted a return to school plan that the Board is expected to adopt on August 25th.  There will be a question/answer session next week on Tuesday, August 17th from 4:30-5:30 via Zoom. You can attend via Zoom at: https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/82510706311  Webinar ID: 825 1070 6311 or Join by Telephone at 1 646 876 9923

Amid new data about the virus, federal and state health authorities are now recommending that all staff and students wear masks in school, regardless of vaccination status. I am recommending to the Board that we require universal masking for all students and staff in RSU5 while indoors beginning August 30th.  Due to federal requirements, we already mask while on any public transportation such as buses or vans. Staff will be allowed to unmask when they are alone in their individual work spaces. 

We will strive to have as much distancing as possible between students. Our first priority is to have all students back to learning five days a week while having a classroom set up that is most conducive to learning. 

We will continue asking students and families to do a daily symptom self-screening before sending their children to school. We will resume having parents, visitors, and volunteers in our buildings. Any visitors will be required to follow our health and safety protocols. 

The most recent state operating procedures continue to be revised. We will continue to follow these protocols and procedures for close contact tracing and will revise as needed as conditions change. 

During the past school year, masking and other protocols helped to keep our schools safe. The majority of COVID cases in RSU5 originated from contacts outside of school, not from within. Like last year, with everyone’s cooperation, we can have a successful return to five-day instruction this fall. As always, I appreciate your support as we strive to provide a quality education for all of our students.  Enjoy the remaining days of summer!

Sincerely,
Becky Foley 
Superintendent