Sunapee Middle High School closed by COVID case

Valley News Staff Writers
Published: 9/25/2020 8:25:00 AM
Modified: 9/25/2020 9:46:29 PM

SUNAPEE — School officials at SAU 85 closed Sunapee Middle High School for the day on Friday after learning of a “confirmed case” of COVID-19 in a student at the school.

“We are working with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services as to contacting students and teachers who may have had close contact with the student,” school officials said in an “alert” posted on the SAU website and Facebook page Thursday night.

The school, which includes about 250 students in grades 6 to 12, was closed on Friday both to staff and students, and no remote instruction occurred.

On Friday afternoon, Sunapee Superintendent Russell Holden sent out a second message to families letting them know that teachers, students and parents who may have had close contact with the student who tested positive would be contacted by DHHS.

“During that phone call you will be given specific instruction as to steps to follow,” he wrote. School officials also reached out to those affected on Friday, he said.

The student who tested positive had been in school earlier in the week, he said in a Friday phone interview. This is the district’s first case in its 3½ weeks of in-person instruction, he said.

Sunapee Central Elementary School, which has about 180 students in grades pre-K to 5, remained open Friday.

“If we were told that any other faculty or families had direct exposure, they would have been contacted and other facilities would also have been closed,” Holden said in his message.

In addition to giving contact tracers time to do their work, the closing of the middle-high school gave school staff time to “deep clean” the building, Holden said.

All Sunapee schools are expected to be open for in-person instruction on Monday “unless we hear differently,” he said Friday.

The school closing in Sunapee came the same week school officials at Kearsarge Regional Middle School in North Sutton, N.H., about 20 minutes from Sunapee, learned of a case of COVID-19 in a sixth grader on Tuesday evening.

In response to that case, school officials had all 6th-graders learn via remote instruction for the day on Wednesday, according to a letter from Michael Bessette, Kearsarge’s assistant superintendent.

The one-day break from in-person learning allowed for additional cleaning and contact tracing, Bessette’s letter said. Kearsarge 6th-graders returned for in-person instruction on Thursday.

Hartford High School also had a student test positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. That case, which came to school officials’ attention on Saturday, Sept. 12, did not force the school to close. Officials there said that the affected student had been sufficiently isolated so that the Vermont Department of Health determined there was no ongoing risk, or need for further intervention or contact tracing at the time.

Elsewhere in the Upper Valley, Dartmouth College reported one active case as of Thursday, out of a total of five cumulative cases among Dartmouth students living on campus or elsewhere in the region since July 1. Colby-Sawyer College in New London has reported a total of two positive cases, including one last week. Kimball Union Academy in Meriden also reported one positive case in August.

Residential schools have set aside dormitories for quarantine and isolation, when necessary.

As of Thursday, there were 281 active cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire, of those there eight were in Grafton County and six in Sullivan County. There were 155 active cases in Vermont.

New Hampshire has seen a total of 8,044 cases and 438 deaths due to COVID-19. Vermont has had a total of 1,731 cases and 58 deaths. The pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people in the U.S.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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