Schools in Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway will delay their start by two weeks, as six East Millinocket school staff members — including the superintendent — and two students have tested positive for the coronavirus following an Aug. 7 wedding in the area.
An East Millinocket School Department staff member hired as a musician at the wedding reception at the Big Moose Inn tested positive after coming in direct contact with the wedding party and guests, according to Superintendent Eric Steeves.
Other school department staff members attended the wedding as well, Steeves said, but none was in the school building the week after the celebration. They have all been tested and quarantined once they learned they had been exposed to the virus.
The six school department employees who have tested positive for the virus are Steeves, two administrators and three staff members, including the wedding musician, the superintendent said.
Steeves said he did not know how the students became infected.
The school department virus cases and the delayed start to the school year are the latest ripple effects from the wedding and reception that took place at the Tri Town Baptist Church in East Millinocket and the Big Moose Inn on Millinocket Lake respectively. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has now linked 85 cases to the wedding, with wedding guests making up 32 of the cases.
State health authorities have linked the wedding to two other virus outbreaks — at a Madison nursing home that has six cases and the York County Jail, which has recorded 18 cases. One woman, who didn’t attend the wedding, has died as a result of the outbreak.
School superintendents in East Millinocket, Millinocket and Medway agreed to delay the opening of schools by two weeks as a result of the outbreak, Steeves said.
East Millinocket schools will start with remote instruction for the first weeks of the school year until the department hears from the Maine CDC that the outbreak is under control. Elementary school students will learn remotely until Sept. 28, and high school students until Oct. 5, Steeves said.
Millinocket will open its schools on Sept. 14 for four days a week of in-person learning. Families can also opt for remote instruction through which students will tune into classes being taught in person, according to Superintendent Frank Boynton. All students will learn remotely every Friday morning, and Friday afternoons will be reserved for workshops where teachers will work on improving virtual learning skills.
In East Millinocket, most staff members and administrators, including Steeves, are quarantining at least until next week. The Maine CDC ordered East Millinocket to shut down its school building — which includes both Opal Myrick Elementary School and Schenck High School — until it could go through deep cleaning, which took place from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20.
“As a result, we are behind in getting things ready to start school,” Steeves said. “Because our school was so directly affected we thought it would be a better idea to start online and err on the side of caution until CDC gives us some information.”
The school building opened again for staff last week, but at reduced capacity. Meanwhile, East Millinocket’s town office is closed this week after an employee who works at the public pool tested positive, said Angela Cote, the town’s administrative assistant.
The town office shut down because some town employees’ children had come in contact with the pool employee, according to Cote, who said her child was among them.
Cote said she doesn’t know if the pool employee who tested positive had any link to the wedding.