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Education Department: COVID-19 Infection Rate In Maine Schools Is Low, But So Is Enrollment

Despite cases of COVID-19 being detected at several schools in Maine, state education officials say that school buildings have so far proved to be relatively safe.

In a briefing to lawmakers on Thursday, Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin said that only about 5 of 10,000 people affiliated with schools in Maine have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past month. She says that’s lower than the state as a whole.

“If that data continues to trend in such a way, it would be safe to say that right now, those who are attending schools are safer than they are, perhaps, in the community. That might be a leap, and again, we’re early on in it, but I’d like to point out that that’s what the data is currently telling us,” she said.

A few outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported at schools in Maine, including at Sanford High School and a Skowhegan-area charter school. The state reports 112 total cases in Maine schools from pre-K through 12th grade over the last 30 days.

Meanwhile, many school leaders in the state are reporting lower student enrollment this fall.

Makin said several schools reported seeing substantial enrollment drops among younger elementary students this year, presumably due to the pandemic.

“Because families are hesitant to have this be the initial experience their child has with education. So we’re predicting a far lower number, potentially, there. And then an explosion, perhaps, next year, or the following year, where these kids all do come in quickly,” she said.

While some districts have seen fewer students enrolling as more families are homeschooling, Makin says other schools are seeing sharp enrollment increases from new families.

The department says that statewide enrollment numbers for this fall will likely be finalized in the coming weeks.