A Dexter school will switch to remote instruction only this week after two people tested positive and were determined to have been in close contact with 51 staff and students.

Ridge View Community School in Dexter will only offer remote instruction until next week after the two students or staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 were found to have been in close contact with 41 students and 10 staff members, said Kevin Jordan, superintendent of Alternative Organizational Structure 94, which includes Dexter-area schools.

Schools across the state have regularly switched to remote instruction after positive cases were identified since the start of the school year. But, in large part, in-person education has continued in Maine since students returned to school at the start of the fall.

The protocols schools put into place — including smaller class sizes, social distancing in hallways and on buses, and the required use of face coverings — have prevented schools from becoming super-spreaders of the virus. Most cases at schools reflect the spread of COVID-19 in the communities where they’re located.

At Ridge View Community School, this is the second time in two weeks that someone associated with the school has tested positive for COVID-19. The first case of the year was reported over winter break and announced on Jan. 5, but is unrelated to the two new cases, Jordan said. The school does not yet qualify as the site of an outbreak, he said. An outbreak happens when there are three or more epidemiologically linked cases.

“This time, the number of staff members exposed is also playing into it a little bit,” he said. “As we don’t have enough substitutes that can be available on short notice, we wouldn’t be able to cover the absence of 10 staff members.”

No one who has been identified as a close contact is showing any symptoms associated with COVID-19, Jordan said. All 10 staff members are planning to teach their classes remotely for the next week. The school has instructed everyone to monitor their health but has not asked anyone to get tested.

After Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students in prekindergarten through fifth grade will return to full-time in-person instruction and grades 6-8 will return to the hybrid learning plan they have had in place since September, Jordan said.

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