LEWISTON — Families feeling frustrated by the disconnect between schools and remote instruction during the pandemic have appealed to the School Committee for changes.

School Committee member Ron Potvin said Monday night that he has received a lot of feedback from the minority community.

Children who are English language learners are struggling with language barriers when they are not in school, he said.

But students in regular instruction are struggling, too, he said.

“Other parents are expressing a lot of frustration with the cohorts,” Potvin said. “It’s fine when kids are at school, but then they come home and there’s a disconnect. They’re not following through with expectations.”

The district has placed students in three groups, known as cohorts. One group attends school Monday and Tuesday and works remotely the rest of the week. Another attends Thursday and Friday, and the third receives fully remote instruction.

Potvin said parents are pushing him to return to regular instruction and to fully reopen schools. He said thousands of students attend schools in the city and there have been few cases of COVID-19.

“What are the key things holding us back?” he asked Superintendent Jake Langlais.

Langlais said the Maine Department of Education requires social distancing in buildings and on school buses. Students on buses, unless they are siblings, must wear masks and ride one to a seat.

“We can only put so many kids on buses at one time,” Langlais said. If all students returned to in-person instruction, “we would not have adequate transportation to meet the guidelines.”

While in classrooms, elementary pupils must be seated at least 3 feet apart. Older students must be spaced at 6-foot intervals.

“We’re limiting exposure,” Langlais said. “If the buildings were full, we would double the exposures, or maybe more.”

Potvin suggested using the basement and modular classrooms at the Longley Building, a former elementary school and community center, as spaces for ELL students and others who need help with remote instruction.

Such spaces could accommodate students who don’t want to attend school because of the virus, he said.

He said the minority community would like the district to hold a forum to discuss what families are going through, “an informal forum where they can freely speak.”


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