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Penobscot Bay Press
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News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 3, 2020
COVID leads to school closure
Brooksville switches to remote learning

COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020
Click here to see the full COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020.

by Eli Forman

Editor’s Note 12/8/20: In some of our coverage of the coronavirus situation at the Brooksville School in our reporting last week we wrote that a student there had contracted the virus. When contacted this week, School Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said that, because of confidentiality requirements, he could not confirm or deny that the person is a student. This is an ongoing complicated situation that we are continually sorting out. We apologize for our part in this confusion.

On Sunday, November 29, Brooksville Elementary School Principal Cammie Fowler was notified of a positive case of COVID-19 among a member of Brooksville Elementary School’s community.

The news “kicked off the process” of contact tracing, disinfecting and a swift pivot to remote learning recommended by the Maine Center for Disease Control, said Fowler.

Contact tracing conducted by the MCDC and Union 93 officials determined approximately 65 people to have been in close contact with the positive individual, upon which all parties were directed to quarantine for two weeks from the last possible date of exposure on Tuesday, November 23.

According to Fowler, Union 93 nursing team Jenny Pert and April Chapman notified and explained to affected families the quarantine directive and encouraged them to get tested if possible.

“There’s a lot of quarantining going on in the Brooksville community,” said Fowler.

In determining close contacts and reaching out to families, Fowler said that officials “definitely aired on the side of caution,” adding “we wanted people to have the information rather than not.”

Fowler said she expects further positive cases as individuals are tested, considering the extent to which the virus is now circulating in the community.

As a result of the incident, Brooksville Elementary School immediately transitioned to fully remote learning starting on Monday, November 30, and will remain virtual until at least December 9, said Fowler.

School health officials and the Union 93 administrative team will reassess the situation this weekend and are expected to release an update concerning remote learning early next week.

In the meantime, Brooksville Elementary School will be professionally cleaned and closed to both students and staff for the next two weeks.

The incident comes on the heels of a very successful first trimester, according to both Fowler and Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt.

“We made it through the first trimester almost flawlessly,” said Fowler, noting that even accomplishing a third of the school year in person is an achievement.

Fowler also praised the resourcefulness and creativity of staff, who managed to successfully transition to remote instruction without even being able to pick up resources from the school building.

“It’s creative, it’s engaging, it’s keeping things going,” Fowler said of the virtual lessons she’s witnessed so far.

In addition to using platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom, teachers compiled and distributed paper based emergency learning packets for students without stable internet connections or access to devices.

In the coming days, teachers will take stock of these students’ needs and distribute devices and wireless hot spots so that all Brooksville students can remain connected.

“We’re very lucky,” said Fowler, adding, “as challenging as it is, the teachers on this peninsula are unbelievable.”