The Cumberland and North Yarmouth public school district will hold remote classes for its prekindergarten through eighth grade students Tuesday due to a flare-up of illness in the district’s schools.

The email sent to parents and staff Monday by School Administrative District 51 announcing the temporary move to remote learning did not specify what illness or illnesses are afflicting students and staff, and district leadership did not respond to a request for more information Monday.

The surge of illness impacting the district comes amid a statewide increase in flu cases and hospitalizations and a spike in reports of children in the state and across the country with respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu.

Over 270 of SAD 51’s 2,100 students are currently out due to illness, Scott Poulin, the district’s director of finance, human resources and operations, said in an email.

The district decided to cancel in-person learning Tuesday for the district’s elementary and middle school students due to health and safety concerns, Poulin said.

“This will allow the district custodians time to deep clean both buildings to ensure the buildings are ready for students and staff to return.”


The elementary and middle schools are scheduled to reopen to in-person learning Wednesday.

The district high school is to remain open for in-person learning all week. “At this time, illnesses at (Greely High School) have not reached a level of concern,” Poulin wrote. The email did not say how many of the 270 students out sick are elementary, middle or high school students.

The Maine Department of Education last week sent a letter to districts across the state regarding a heightened occurrence of respiratory illness in children.

“There has been an increase in the number of reports of children in Maine, and across the U.S., with respiratory illness,” the letter said.

The increase in respiratory illness caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, enterovirus, influenza, COVID, pertussis (whooping cough) and the common cold is placing a strain on healthcare systems, the department said.

It urged schools to encourage students and staff to get vaccinated and stay up to date on their vaccines, stay home if they are sick, mask up if they return to school soon after contracting COVID, take antibiotics when necessary, test when possible, wash their hands frequently and clean high-touch areas. It also reminded schools to report outbreaks – an instance in which 15 percent or more of students and staff are out sick due to illness.


The warnings of a bad flu season have been frequent over the past few months, with doctors and other medical professionals warning of a “tripledemic,” of respiratory viruses including COVID, flu and RSV.

Districts like SAD 51 seem to be experiencing some of this first hand.

On a Friday earlier this month, the Portland Public School District’s Casco Bay High School closed early due to a flu outbreak that hit one-third of the school’s staff and students. Last week the Kennebunk-area school district issued an alert following a confirmed case of whooping cough at Sea Road School, which serves 300 third through fifth grade students.

After nearly three years of very few respiratory viruses circulating except for COVID, the other viruses are back with a vengeance, said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer for MaineHealth, the parent organization of Maine Medical Center and seven other hospitals in Maine.

And this year’s respiratory virus season so far is especially severe for children in terms of the number of kids getting sick and the number of kids getting severely ill.

“As with many hospitals across the country, hospitals in Maine, including Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, saw more than twice as many children hospitalized in October and November than any other month before on record,” she said.


No one is exactly sure why this year’s respiratory virus season is so bad, Mills said. But some theories are that because respiratory viruses except for COVID were kept at bay over the past few years, immunity is low and more people are getting the viruses than usual.

Additionally, the current dominant strains of the flu and RSV circulating are particularly harsh.

According to the CDC, instances of respiratory illness are high around the country.

To avoid getting sick, Mills recommends getting vaccinated and masking up in crowded indoor spaces.

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