MDI High School of Bar Harbor

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Nine public schools in eastern Hancock County will close immediately in response to coronavirus, with the school system’s superintendent saying that “to do otherwise represents a serious risk and overt threat to public health and safety.”

The decision to close the K-8 schools of Bar Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Frenchboro, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, Swan’s Island, Tremont and Trenton, as well as Mount Desert Island High School, for at least two weeks effective Monday came after Marc Gousse, the island’s schools superintendent, met with other school administrators, a school nurse, public safety officials and representatives from The Jackson Laboratory and Mount Desert Island Hospital on Friday afternoon, Gousse said in a statement Friday evening.

Earlier Friday, Indian Township School in Washington County, one of three schools run by Maine Indian Education, became the first primary or secondary school in the state to announce that it was closing down temporarily due to coronavirus concerns.

“I believe the immediate closure of all [MDI] schools at this time is not only prudent but critical to support the health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and communities,” Gousse said in the statement. “To do otherwise represents a serious risk and overt threat to public health and safety.”

[Here’s what has been canceled or postponed in Maine due to coronavirus]

“Given the scientific data and evidence at hand, it is imperative we close schools immediately to mitigate this pandemic and limit further potential exposure. I understand the ramifications of this decision and have carefully weighed the implications of this action,” he added.

Gousse said he will reassess the decision daily and provide updates “as to when we may resume regular school-based operations.”

Gousse said he has formed an operational-logistical team and an educational-remote learning team to offer students some services online and to support educators remotely. He said he appreciates the sacrifices that will be made by students, staff and the communities they serve.

“I do not take this action lightly,” he said. “However, this public health crisis requires immediate, bold and decisive action.”

BDN writer Bill Trotter contributed to this report.