Elementary students in RSU 29 returned to classes on Aug. 30. Credit: Courtesy of Houlton Elementary School

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Elementary School is closing down effective Thursday and reopening on Sept. 20 as it deals with a high number of positive COVID-19 cases and students in quarantine.

The announcement comes just nine days after Houlton Elementary had its first day of school. It also follows several other schools in Aroostook County that have switched to remote learning or closed down, such as the high schools in Van Buren and Caribou. Limestone and Fort Fairfield also had to postpone the start of their school semesters due to high community transmission of the virus.

“Over the last few days, the number of students in quarantine has increased,” said Richard Lyons, the superintendent of RSU 29, which includes Houlton Elementary. “Given the situation, I felt unfortunately that this was the best decision to take.”

About 20 percent of the entire student population, or 68 children, were in quarantine as of Wednesday, Lyons said. Ten staff members were also either in quarantine or had tested positive for the virus.

 An email sent out by RSU 29 said that the school would clean its classrooms before opening the school back up to students. All other schools in RSU 29 — Houlton Middle/High and Southside School — will remain open.