Oakes Field at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft. Credit: Ernie Clark / BDN

Two students at Foxcroft Academy have tested positive for the coronavirus, and they had participated in the Dover-Foxcroft school’s preseason athletic workouts before the school called them off Tuesday, according to the academy’s head of school.

Arnold Shorey said the students didn’t contract COVID-19 at the school, but didn’t say how they might have contracted the virus.

“I can say it was definitely not on campus,” he said. “This was contracted on private property.”

State statistics show that Piscataquis County’s coronavirus case count grew from four to six between Tuesday and Wednesday. The 17,000-person county still has Maine’s lowest number of coronavirus cases and the lowest infection rate in the state, according to state statistics. But the latest infections show the potential risks as students come back into contact with each other five months into the coronavirus pandemic.

TRACKING THE CORONAVIRUS IN MAINE

Other students involved in the preseason athletic workouts who might have been exposed won’t necessarily be tested, Shorey said.

“Safety measures were being taken during the sports,” he said. “I just asked parents to keep an eye out for symptoms and contact their doctor for guidance.”

The student-athletes’ cases aren’t the only new infections in Piscataquis County. In an email to Foxcroft Academy staff on Tuesday night, Shorey said a middle school student with siblings at Foxcroft Academy had tested positive. All of them were quarantining, he said. 

Stacey Shorey, the superintendent of Regional School Unit 68, which includes SeDoMoCha Middle School in Dover-Foxcroft, confirmed that a student had tested positive, but said the case was unrelated to Foxcroft Academy students who contracted COVID-19.

The school was not running any activities for students when the middle schooler tested positive, so no other students or staff were exposed, Stacey Shorey said.

Foxcroft Academy shut down its preseason workouts on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, the Piscataquis Regional YMCA said it was temporarily shutting down for cleaning because of the presence of COVID-19 in the community. The facility is expected to reopen on Monday.

“This is a foreshadow of what is surely to come and at least we can test our protocols and procedures before the opening of school,” Arnold Shorey said in the Tuesday night email announcing the cancellation of preseason workouts.

A Foxcroft Academy teacher who did not want to be named out of fear of facing repercussions from the administration said the situation has added to the concern about returning to the classroom this fall.

“We’re not even back yet, and the kids are infecting one another in their first gatherings,” the teacher said. “How on earth can you pretend that there is a safe and rational plan in place for us to go back to that school?”

The Maine Principals’ Association, which oversees Maine high school athletics, is allowing schools to host voluntary preseason conditioning workouts between Aug. 3 and 16 in advance of a delayed fall sports season, with a range of precautions aimed at preventing the virus’ spread.

Those workouts can include up to 100 students if held outdoors, or groups of up to 10 students each if held indoors, according to the association’s guidelines. Students aren’t supposed to leave those groups. Face coverings are required during those sessions when students aren’t engaged in “vigorous activity,” according to the guidelines. Coaches and other officials are required to wear face coverings at all times.

High schools across the country have paused summer workouts for student-athletes when they’ve feared potential exposure to the coronavirus. The Poudre School District in Fort Collins, Colorado, shut down summer workouts last month after athletes tested positive for the coronavirus, the Coloradoan reported. College teams have done the same after recording positive coronavirus tests.