Most South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough students and staff are vaccinated, with students ages 5-11 now joining their ranks after the vaccine was approved for that age group earlier this month.

At least 60% of students ages 5-18 in South Portland public schools, 75% in Cape Elizabeth, and 80% in Scarborough public schools have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Nov. 15, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The vaccination rate among staff at South Portland and Cape Elizabeth schools exceeds the state average of 83.4%, according to the DHHS. In South Portland, Superintendent Timothy Matheney said 96% of school staff is vaccinated. As of October, 98% of Cape Elizabeth school staff was vaccinated.

In Scarborough, 78% of school staff was fully vaccinated as of October, DHHS data shows. Superintendent Geoffrey Bruno did not respond to requests for comment before The Forecaster’s deadline.

Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Christopher Record estimates that 95% of his students ages 12 and older are vaccinated.

“We just held a vaccination clinic at Cove Elementary for ages 5 through 11,” Record said. “We had about 40% of our students participate in that, but we noticed some parents are getting their students vaccinated outside of the school clinic as well.”

The clinic to administer second doses for those students is scheduled for Dec. 10.

South Portland schools have also been holding clinics for that age group. Nearly 500 students ages 5-11 were vaccinated at those clinics, Matheney said.

“It’s a really terrific total for three days of clinics,” he said.

The White House reported last week that roughly 10% of eligible children ages 5-11 have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. That’s a total of 2.6 million children.

Meanwhile, over 14,000 elementary school-age children in Maine, or 14.6% of that population, have received their first dose.

South Portland schools have seen 66 COVID-19 cases among students and staff this school year, Matheney said. Last November, an outbreak at South Portland High School forced the school to resort to all-remote learning.

Matheney said that, with a population of 3,500 students and staff, having just 66 cases is impressive.

“That total is reflective of our strong pandemic mitigation efforts and high vaccination rates in South Portland,” he said.

Cape schools have had only five cases since the beginning of the school year,  Record said.

“No case is a good thing,” he said. “But we think we’ve had a low number of cases, and that has a lot to do with our really high vaccination rate in the community.”

Scarborough schools have had fewer than five cases in the past 30 days, according to the Maine Department of Education. As of March 5 of the last school year, Scarborough had a total 51 cases, then-Superintendent Sanford Prince told the Scarborough Leader.

With many students and staff expected to be traveling for Thanksgiving and the upcoming December holidays, a rise in cases is a concern nationwide.

“We have over 1,200 people involved in pool testing every week,” said Record of Cape Elizabeth’s approach to curbing a potential winter spike. “Universal masking for anyone inside our schools, continued focus on hand hygiene … I think we’ve been pretty successful.”

Matheney indicated that South Portland schools will continue to encourage students and staff to follow CDC guidelines.

“All that we’re doing as a school district is encouraging families to make responsible decisions about getting vaccinated,” he said. “Doing all those things that the U.S. CDC and the Maine CDC are advising families to do at this time.”

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