A joint statement from the RSU 9 Superintendent and Franklin Community Health Network President
As many parents in the district know, the RSU 9 school year has had a rocky start. More than 30 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and an additional 300 individuals have been close contacts. It should come as no surprise that these numbers not only impact our schools, but also directly impact our local health system, especially as the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant continues to ravage our state. Before schools started back up in early August, the average number of COVID-19 tests performed at Franklin Community Health Network’s (FCHN) testing clinic was 30 per day. In the weeks since students returned to in-person classes, that number has skyrocketed to 175 per day. That’s more than a four-fold increase. The need for testing and possible treatments that could be required for positive cases has the potential to push FCHN to the limits of its capacity.
As the two largest employers in our area, FCHN and Mt. Blue School District (RSU 9) provides essential services to our community. These services have not missed a beat—from remote learning to pop-up community vaccination clinics—adapting to the shifting needs of the people and families we serve. In the schools, teachers and staff have come together to make pandemic learning as seamless as possible as we work through the daily challenges of providing education during an exceptionally difficult time. At FCHN, staff have worked extra shifts, struggled to get needed testing, all while trying to navigate ever-changing policies and procedures. Many families have approached both the schools and medical services with kindness and flexibility and we are grateful.
Unfortunately, not everyone seems to understand the difficulties we are balancing in our schools and our health care facilities to support students, staff, and our communities. Some people don’t trust our motives for doing what we’re doing. Others seem to think we are deliberately trying to make processes and procedures more complicated. In reality, all we really want is our community families to be healthy and cared for, whether in school or at the hospital.
From the last 19 months, we know that the guidelines we must deal with are constantly changing as our understanding of the virus increases. It’s hard and frustrating to keep up with the new masking policies, vaccination mandates, and quarantine guidelines. We also know that a vast majority of you are doing your best, and you should know that we are doing everything we can during the pandemic to keep in-person learning happening and to provide health care to all who need it.
We can’t continue to do our best without your support. Wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, and avoiding unnecessary crowds are all necessary aspects of present pandemic life, as are kindness, empathy, and patience. Specifically, we ask that if you are not vaccinated, please get vaccinated. If your child is 12 years or older, please get them vaccinated. Vaccines are essential to curbing the COVID-19 outbreak in our community and waiting any longer is too long.
Please show the hardworking folks on the frontlines of healthcare, education, and so many other essential industries that we really are in this together as a community by taking the critical steps to ensure everyone’s wellbeing.
Christian M. Elkington
Superintendent, RSU 9