ELLSWORTH — The annual Homecoming dance, which was scheduled to have taken place sSept. 24, was postponed because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Principal Dan Clifford told School Board members this week that the dance now will be held in winter or spring.
“We’re going to do it, we just want to do it at the right time,” Clifford explained Oct. 12. Playing into the decision were fears that student-athletes might not be able to participate in playoff games in the event the dance resulted in positive COVID-19 cases.
Clifford also said holding the dance outside was not an option when board Vice Chairwoman Abigail Miller suggested it.
“Girls bought dresses for this,” she said. “They could potentially grow out of those dresses by spring.”
Clifford said while 350 tickets had already been sold for the dance before it was postponed, the logistics of holding it outside — ordering a tent, the day-long set up — made it difficult and he believes it will be too cold for an outdoor nighttime dance.
In addition, he pointed to Sumner Memorial High School, which held an outside Homecoming dance that resulted in 70 students being named close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case.
“We’re looking at winter or spring, for sure,” Clifford said.
There have been 10 positive cases at EHS since the school year began, six at the elementary-middle school and eight at Hancock County Technical Center, Superintendent Dan Higgins reported. A total of 260 staff and students were identified as close contacts.
But because of the universal masking policy in place, 131 of the close contacts were able to continue to attend school but remain in quarantine outside of school. Sixty-one vaccinated and asymptomatic students and staff did not have to quarantine and 61 underwent a full 10-day quarantine.
“We do not yet have evidence of community transmission in the school,” Higgins said. “To me, that is a bit of evidence that the mitigation strategies in place are effective. We’re able to keep our schools open, and able to keep kids and staff in school.”
The School Department just sent in its latest vaccination numbers for staff, as required by the Maine Department of Education (DOE), and Higgins shared the new rates with the board. For EHS, 75.8 percent are vaccinated, with 94 out of 127 staff members responding to the survey. The elementary-middle school has a 75.5 percent staff member vaccination rate, with 130 out of 172 staff responding. Hancock County Technical Center has an 81 percent rate, with 17 of 21 staff members responding. The school’s district office has a 90 percent rate, with 26 of 29 staff members responding. Some district office employees, like bus drivers, circulate among the three schools, Higgins noted.
The first numbers reported in September had shown a dismal 45.6 percent staff vaccination rate for EHS and 61 percent for EEMS. The DOE counts staff members who did not respond to the survey as unvaccinated.
“That’s certainly a stronger picture than we saw a month ago,” Higgins said.