SEARSPORT — Chris Downing, superintendent of Regional School Unit 20, told staff, students and families in an Oct. 13 letter that a person associated with the middle and high school had tested positive for COVID-19.

By the next week, he informed the school community that Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention had put RSU 20 schools under an outbreak status, meaning three or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported within a 14-day period that are epidemiologically linked. As of Thursday, Oct. 21, Maine CDC was reporting five people who had tested positive for COVID-19 at the high school, and seven people at the middle school.

An Oct. 19 letter from Downing says a Maine Department of Education or school representative will contact all people identified as close contacts. People who are close contacts who are not vaccinated and not a pool testing participant will be asked to quarantine from school and non-school activities.

Because of the outbreak status, which resulted in high numbers of students and staff having to quarantine, starting Oct. 21, RSU 20 now requires universal indoor masking for all students, teachers, staff and visitors whileint school or district buildings and while on buses or vans. In a tense August RSU 20 School Board meeting, directors had decided parents should be the ones to decide whether students come to school with a mask.

Students in pre-K through grade 12 shifted to remote learning Wednesday, Oct. 20, because of the high number of positive cases and associated close contacts in quarantine, and to prevent further spread of the virus.

Downing said students not identified as close contacts were to return to in-person learning at school Monday, Oct. 25.