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Lee Academy Goes Remote; Oxford County Now 'Yellow' In Maine's Color-Coded COVID-19 Risk System

Lee Academy in Lee will transition to remote learning through at least the end of December as COVID-19 case counts continue to climb and four Maine counties have been classified as “yellow” in the state’s latest color-coded risk assessment for schools.

The independent high school in Penobscot County, which also accepts nearby public school students, announced the decision Thursday.

In an email, Executive Director Luke Shorty says the change is being made because the school isn’t confident that it “will be able to consistently remain in person through the Christmas holiday season.” Shorty says by going remote, the school can minimize disruptions through the rest of the month.

“One hallmark of good educational practice is consistency and to be able to minimize disruption in the delivery education is important,” Shorty says. “We know that we will be able to consistently deliver quality education remotely and have plans to help meet the needs of our students who have difficulty connecting online in rural Maine and our students who attend the Northern Penobscot Technical Center.”

Penobscot County remains “green” on the state’s color-coded risk assessment system, though it’s being closely monitored, and some schools in the county, including Bangor High School, have seen recent outbreaks.

The Mills administration announced Friday that Oxford County has moved from “green” to “yellow,” joining York, Androscoggin and Somerset counties. The rest of the state has been designated “green.”

In a written release, the state DOE says Oxford County’s positivity rate has risen to more than 6%. The yellow designation means that areas have an elevated level of risk, and the state Department of Education recommends that schools add precautions such as limiting class sizes.

The state has detected 338 cases connected to Maine’s K-12 schools over the past month, but still says that public schools are not a significant source of spread and that they have lower case rates than the state as a whole.