Lincoln Academy moved to virtual learning April 12-16 after eight individuals associated with the school tested positive for COVID-19. As of Wednesday, April 14, 235 students and 30 staff members are in quarantine.
In an email sent Thursday, April 8, Director of Health Services Eric Duffy and Head of School Jeff Burroughs said two individuals associated with the school had tested positive for COVID-19. A second email was sent the afternoon of Friday, April 9 informing the community of two additional positive tests. Four additional cases were confirmed in an email sent Sunday, April 11.
LA also had a positive case on March 25, for a total of nine cases in 14 days. The school meets the definition of an outbreak, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Robert Long, spokesperson for the Maine CDC, this is the second outbreak in Lincoln County to reach nine cases. A previous outbreak investigation associated with Colby & Gale Inc. also recorded nine cases. The investigation was closed in early March.
Parents of any students involved, as well as any faculty and staff members who were close contacts of the individuals were notified and asked to quarantine for 10 days from their date of exposure, according to the email. A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of a positive case, with or without a face mask, for at least 15 minutes during the infectious period, or someone who is in a cohort of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.
“As of Sunday evening, we have asked 235 students and 30 teachers who are close contacts of positive COVID cases to quarantine for 10 days. We are contact tracing class by class and team by team,” Duffy said in an email.
Lincoln Academy currently has 533 students and 103 faculty and staff members, as well as a dozen spring coaches, according to LA spokesperson Jenny Mayher.
There are confirmed cases in both student cohorts, as well as on sports teams, Mayher said. As high school students have differing schedules and cannot be “podded” together like elementary and middle school classes, the number of close contacts jumped quickly, she added.
However, at this time, the school has not seen evidence of community spread within the school, Mayher said.
“At this point, there is evidence of community transmission being brought into the school, but so far there has been no evidence of transmission within the school,” Mayher said. “We believe that our safety measures of mandatory mask wearing on campus, small classes, social distancing, hand hygiene, and daily health screenings have helped prevent that from happening.”
Due to the large number of students and staff in quarantine, LA moved to virtual learning for all classes April 12-16 and all after-school programs and athletics were canceled for the week.
This is the first time Lincoln Academy has transitioned to virtual learning in response to COVID-19 cases in the school, Mayher said. The school held remote classes for the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and extended Christmas break by one week as a precaution.
“We knew that people would be traveling and there was so much evidence there would be an increase in cases, so we decided to close proactively,” Mayher said. “This is our first reactive closure.”
The school’s April vacation is the following week. LA plans to return to hybrid learning and resume athletics after April vacation on Monday, April 26, Mayher said.
“At this point it is our plan to return to school and athletics after vacation unless we hear differently or if this outbreak continues,” Mayher said in a phone interview Wednesday, April 14.
The school is also moving forward with plans for graduation, Mayher said.
“If this outbreak had happened in late May, we wouldn’t even be able to do the distanced graduation we did last year,” Mayher said. “There is still time that, if people take care of themselves and do what they need to do, we can get a hold on this outbreak and move forward with graduation plans, but that is not guaranteed at this point.”