LEWISTON — School building leaders described the first week back since March as smooth, “scary” and “amazing.”

Lewiston Public Schools reopened Sept. 14 with COVID-19 protocols in place after months of closure to help limit the spread of the airborne virus.

Administrators praised teachers, ed techs, support staff and central office staff for their dedication and commitment to students.

The students have been pretty great, too, they said.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the conduct of students and their cooperation with mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing and social-distancing,” Lewiston High School Principal Gus LeBlanc told the School Committee on Monday night. “To date, there have been no issues.”

He said social distancing has been the most challenging for students.

“High school is an incredible social experience for students,” he said. But so far, they are doing a “pretty good job” of staying 6 feet from one another.

LeBlanc said Maine Center for Disease Control and Maine Department of Education guidelines offer a “teachable moment.”

Following the guidelines teaches students about social responsibility, he said. The safety protocols offer “a real-life example of our responsibility to others.”

Teamwork among teachers and the quality of work from everyone from the top down have been outstanding, LeBlanc said.

“I remain highly optimistic that we have the capability to endure this challenge,” he said.

Others were equally upbeat.

Lewiston Middle School Principal Jana Mates said students have been compliant with the safety guidelines set by the state.

“Middle school students have been more mature and resilient than any of us could have asked for,” she said.

She said communicating with parents has been the No. 1 priority. Students have been “front-loaded” in distance education platforms “in case we have to go remote.”

Many families have chosen fully remote instruction, including 269 high school students and hundreds of middle and elementary pupils. These students also have been trained on remote platforms.

Sara Sims, director of the Longley Building campus that houses alternative programs, including Impact Academy and Next STEP, gushed about the “amazing” first week of school.

“It’s been through the roof,” Sims said. “There’s a real, general feeling in the air of wanting to connect and make things feel like they should be.”

She gave a “massive shoutout” to staff who have gone above and beyond to support students. She also praised the administration for its collaborative efforts.

“It’s been beautiful,” she said. “We’ve done this, and we’ve done the unimaginable.”

Others also described the reopening amid a pandemic as difficult to imagine.

Farwell Elementary School Principal Amanda Winslow said teachers are pulling off a level of preparedness that they have never before been asked to do.

“People are doing things they never imagined they would have to do as educators,” such as preparing lesson plans four weeks in advance, she said.

Administrators said they also have seen an unprecedented level of involvement from parents.

And then there’s the fear of getting sick with the virus that has now killed 200,000 Americans.

“It’s just awesome to be back in front of students — scary and awesome,” Montello Elementary Principal Jim Cliffe said.

He said staff has been anxious at times, but everyone comes back every day.

Connors Elementary School Principal Don Ferrara praised faculty, staff and parents for their courage.

“Teachers have come to me excited about what the year holds and honest about their fears of what this year might bring,” Ferrara said.

“I’m amazed at the courage they show, right down to the parents’ courage to give us their children when know there is danger in the world.”

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