Fort Kent Elementary School has transitioned to remote learning due to the high number of COVID-19 cases among students. Credit: Courtesy of the Town of Fort Kent

FORT KENT, Maine — Fort Kent Elementary School is the latest St. John Valley school to move to a remote learning model as COVID-19 cases rapidly spread throughout northern Maine.

There were 42 elementary school staff and students confirmed positive for the virus as of Dec. 2, or more than 10 percent of the school population. The Maine Department of Education reported Thursday that the school’s 30-day case numbers were 75, which is the highest in the state. Next highest is Lewiston High School at 68 cases and Brewer Community School at 59 cases.

“Based on the fact that the Maine CDC has no metric to help us determine when to move students to remote learning, we are therefore going to use the 10 [percent] positivity rate as our benchmark,” Superintendent Ben Sirois wrote in a letter to parents.

Fort Kent Community High School/Valley Rivers Middle School, which share a building, will continue with in-school learning, as the rate of COVID-19 among staff and students there is around 2 percent.

Students were dismissed at noon on Thursday with remote learning to begin Friday. Administrators plan to maintain remote learning through Friday, Dec. 10, with the hope that students can return to in-school learning on Dec. 13.

“Now more than ever, SAD27 needs the community’s help in slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that when the students return to school on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, there will be significantly less students impacted by this virus,” Sirois said in his letter.

Van Buren District School moved to a remote learning model a week before Thanksgiving because of a lack of available essential workers due to infected or quarantined staff members.