Regional School Unit 19 Central Office in Newport. Credit: Courtesy of Alex Barber

Regional School Unit 19 students attending Nokomis Regional Middle School and Nokomis Regional High in Newport will move to remote learning Thursday through Nov. 10, Superintendent Michael Hammer said in a notice to the school community.

“Due to a very large number of COVID cases and close contacts among staff and students at the middle and high school, we are going to transfer to remote learning for students in grades 7-12 beginning this Thursday, November 4th, through Wednesday, November 10th,” he said in the notice, which was posted Tuesday.

Since the start of the school year in September, spikes in COVID-19 cases and outbreaks have caused schools across Maine to occasionally pivot to remote learning. At RSU 19, Hammer notifies the school community weekly about masking in the buildings, which is based on transmission rates in Penobscot and Somerset counties.

Students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade will continue attending in person.

RSU 19 serves the communities of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans.

The letter did not specify how many students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Between the two schools, there were cases in the “mid to high 20s,” Hammer said Wednesday.

“There were quite a few staff members [who tested positive] at the middle school and two or three at the high school,” he said, adding there was also a significant spike in student cases.

In a separate letter to students, staff and families dated Oct. 29, Hammer provided a weekly COVID-19 update. At that time, four people had tested positive for COVID-19 at Etna-Dixmont School; two at Sebasticook Valley Elementary School; three at Nokomis Regional Middle School; and 13 at Nokomis Regional High. There were no cases listed at Somerset Elementary School.

The decision to shift to remote learning led to some district calendar changes. Students will not attend school on Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day, or Nov. 12, because of a full-day workshop.

Students involved in marching band will be allowed to participate in the Veterans Day parade as long as they are not in quarantine, Hammer said.

All students will return to in-person learning Nov. 15.

During the remote learning period, students in seventh through 12th grades can sign up for breakfast and lunch, which will be available for families to pick up at the nearest school. Students and parents can contact Food Service Director David Leighton at 207-355-3613 or dleighton@rsu19.net.