JBES goes remote - Joe Yahna

Josiah Bartlett Elementary School Principal Joe Yahna is optimistic that students and staff will return to face-to-face learning on Jan. 19. (LLOYD JONES PHOTO)

BARTLETT — Josiah Bartlett Elementary School has become the first school in SAU 9 to go fully remote this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four cases of coronavirus were reported over the weekend at the preschool- through-eighth-grade school, prompting officials to order remote learning for 10 days. The quarantine period started last Saturday, Jan. 9, and will end on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

This may be the post-holiday surge that medical professionals warned about, as Jackson Grammar School reported its first case of the virus on Monday. Meanwhile John H. Fuller Elementary in North Conway, Kennett Middle School and Kennett High also are reporting active cases.

“I think this is the surge,” Superintendent Kevin Richard told the Sun Tuesday. “This shows the importance of cohorts all over the place and contact tracing.”

Richard and staff from JBES spent the weekend alerting Bartlett families of the four cases.

“As a result, multiple cohorts and staff members are required to quarantine,” Richard said in a letter to families shared Sunday. “Out of an abundance of caution and due to the strain on staffing, JBES will go fully remote beginning Monday, Jan. 11, through Friday, Jan. 15.”

JBES has an enrollment of 177 students. Of those, 22 have been doing distance learning from the beginning of the school year.

The Bartlett school reported its first case Dec. 3, after which about 20 students and a Bartlett school bus driver had to quarantine for two weeks.

With regard to the coronavirus, SAU 9 does not disclose whether diagnosed persons are students or staff.

Richard said all co-curricular activities are being postponed during the remote period.

Richard and other administrators in the SAU believe that in-person instruction is better for a student than remote.

“I really do think we’ll be back to face-to-face instruction on Jan. 19 after the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday,” JBES Principal Joe Yahna said Tuesday.

He praised Helen Crowell, the school nurse, and Beth Corbett, family support liaison, for doing the bulk of notifying families about having to transition to remote learning.

“If families need anything, please contact us (at 603-374-2331),” Yahna said. “If you did not receive notification from me or the school, please let us know.”

Thursday had been earmarked as the first winter fun day, to be held in lieu of the Eastern Slope Ski Club’s snow days, Yahna said. It has now been pushed back to Jan. 21, when the Bartlett Bears are scheduled to partake in sledding, snowshoe and snow sculpture activities.

At the Jackson school, one person tested positive, leading to only that individual needing to quarantine until Jan. 21.

Kennett Middle School in Conway Village also has one positive case and one person quarantining, with a likely return of Jan. 19.

Kennett High, the first school in the SAU to report the virus on Oct. 8, has two positive cases that require 29 people to quarantine and do school remotely until Jan. 19.

John Fuller has three current cases with 19 people quarantining until Jan. 17.

The recent cases bring the overall total to 34 for the schools (up from 23 as of Dec. 30) in SAU 9.

Richard praised JBES staff for springing into action to prep for remote learning, something the entire SAU 9 had to do last year from March 13 to the end of the 2019-20 school year.

“What we did was set up a time from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday for families to pick up their child’s (computer/tablet Chromebooks), any other learning materials and meals,” Richard explained.

“Currently, a schedule for food delivery is being developed for the duration of this remote instruction period.”

Parents/guardians were instructed to arrive Monday by the main entrance of the school, where a staff member coordinated the pick up of materials.

With the remote process, “students will receive emails and/or phone contact from teachers about daily plans,” Richard said. “Students and staff members who were in close contact with the positive cases have been or will be contacted by phone about self-quarantine and additional recommended steps. Those who did not receive a phone call, your child has not been identified as a close contact.”

Richard said the district uses a 48-hour window in contact tracing individuals with whom a positive person may have come in contact over two days at the schools.

Richard said should a child or staffer develop symptoms of COVID-19, they should contact their medical provider.

Also if a positive case is identified, families and staff have been asked to notify the school nurse.

The state Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Schools Dashboard, said as of Tuesday, there have been 753.9 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days, with 1.3 new hospitalizations per 100,000 over that period.

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