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Some High Schoolers In Northern Aroostook County Forced To Move To Remote Learning

Van Buren District Secondary School
Don Eno
St. John Valley Times via BDN
Van Buren District Secondary School

One of the first schools in Maine to bring students back this fall is temporarily shifting to remote learning because of COVID-19.

The Van Buren District Secondary School, in northern Aroostook County, began classes last Wednesday. But most students were forced to move to remote learning Monday because they're considered close contacts of a staff member who reported that they had likely contracted the virus.

District officials say that vaccinated students —even those who are considered close contacts — have returned to school, but must be masked through Aug. 31. Unvaccinated close contacts must learn remotely until the same date.

Superintendent Elaine Boulier says it's important to note that schools are not typically a major vector of COVID transmission.

"That's the challenge is, most of the cases don't emanate within the school. Yet impact the school," she says. Boulier says despite the current situation, she hopes the fact that most of the school's employees are vaccinated will mean that the district will have fewer staff shortages this year.

"Because the problem last year, and the challenge last year, was that if we had a substantial amount of staff out, we had to close. Because we can't run a school without staffing," she says.

Boulier says the district continues to follow health protocols that include sanitized classrooms and social distancing, when possible, though the district has made mask-wearing optional within school buildings.

Other schools in surrounding Mars Hill, Presque Isle and Easton have also reported cases over the past few days.