Web exclusive, November 30, 2020
COVID-19 closes all Union 93 schools
Closure due to COVID-19 outbreak at Island Nursing Home
by Jeffrey B. Roth
Citing a need to exercise “an abundance of caution,” Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt announced that “I am closing Brooksville, Blue Hill, Castine, Penobscot, and Surry [schools]” from Monday, November 30, through Friday, December 4, in response to “a significant COVID-19 outbreak on Deer Isle, at the Island Nursing Home.”
“We all know about the outbreak at the Island Nursing Home [48 people] and that is very concerning to all of us,” Hurvitt said in a late Monday afternoon email. “We have just had a positive case in Brooksville, and that also has some cross pollination with other schools. The CDC has told us that we need to test 65 people at Brooksville Elementary School because of the case there. I don’t need to tell you how interconnected all of these five towns are, and, even if only 10 percent of those tests turn out to be positive, that still means six to seven people with close contacts to individuals in the other four schools. I have decided to play it safe and to go remote (Red) for this entire week.”
Hurvitt said that until recently, Union 93 had no in-school COVID-19 cases. He added: “Now, we can’t ignore the fact that COVID is here in Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, and Surry, and that, as a school system, we are charged with keeping students and staff safe in our schools. We have done an amazing job, but now we find an array of challenges ahead of us.”
Union 93 officials hope to learn more about the extent of the outbreak “by the weekend.” The administrative team plans to meet Sunday morning, December 6, to reassess the situation and to discuss “plans for the weeks of December 7th, December 14th, and the short week of December 21st and 22nd,” Hurvitt said.
“My thought, at this point, is that we will move to our Yellow Plans on December 7th, especially if Hancock County is designated Yellow on December 4th, the next designation date,” Hurvitt said. “As far as school on January 4th, 2021, we’ll see.”
As a School Union, each town has its own school board and its own Green, Yellow and Red plans, Hurvitt said. As a result, the principal of each school will contact students’ families regarding specific details, such as when remote learning will start, how it will work, home learning packets, school lunches, etc.
“School board meetings in December will all be on Zoom, and we are in the process of making those changes,” Hurvitt said. “I had hoped to have schools open in person, at least through 2020, but at this point, that is not the safest route for students, staff, and for the peninsula community.”
Hurvitt said updates about the temporary school closings will be posted on the Union 93 website: schoolunion93.org.