LEWISTON — The school district has a plan for fully remote instruction as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state.

The School Committee took no action Monday night, but Superintendent Jake Langlais said he is prepared to make the decision.

“If contact tracing becomes so big, instead of calling every parent, we will hit the brakes on this,” Langlais said. “I’m ready to pull that trigger if I need to.”

Staffing levels will be a major part of the decision, he said.

“It’s not only a question of do we have enough staff, but how healthy is our staff?” he said.

A substitute teacher at Lewiston Middle School who tested positive Monday was in close contact with 26 students and two staffers, all of whom will be in quarantine for 14 days.


Those students will receive fully remote instruction until Nov. 23.

A pupil at McMahon Elementary School also has tested positive but hadn’t been in school since Tuesday. All close contacts were at his day care center, so no staff is in quarantine.

The pupil attends school Monday and Tuesday and gets remote instruction the rest of the week.

Committee member Kiernan Majerus-Collins made a motion early in the meeting, before three lengthy executive sessions, to reconsider remote learning.

His motion failed 4-2, with City Council representative Alicia Rea also voting in favor. Ron Potvin, Vice Chairman Bruce Damon, Lynnea Hawkins and Chairwoman Megan Parks voted against the motion.

During the public session, Majerus-Collins praised the administration, teachers, education technicians and support staff for making school buildings as safe as possible.


“But I also have to say it is not safe,” he said.

“Last week was the worst point, but now we are at another worst point and I have every reason to believe next week will again be the worst point,” Majerus-Collins said.

The state reported 204 new cases Monday, the highest single-day total since the pandemic hit in mid-March. The count Tuesday was 172 new cases and three more deaths.

“I don’t see how we can continue to responsibly bring people into schools when the virus is raging so dramatically,” Majerus-Collins said. “I really, really urge my colleagues to reflect on this.”

A vaccine is likely to be available next year, he said, which means remote instruction would not continue over multiple years.

“The next three, four, five months could be the extent of this,” he said. “I prefer having as many people alive as possible.”


Member Potvin pointed out that Maine is still the second-safest state in the country and that northern New England is the safest region.

Even with the surge, Maine has seen “a minute percentage, less than 1%, of what Massachusetts has endured,” Potvin said.

He suggested “leaning heavily” on state guidelines because they have been reasonable.

But Lewiston is not like the rest of state, member Rea said.

“We have a downtown population where folks live in close contact with each other and families interact with each other. That doesn’t necessarily happen in the suburbs,” she said. “I don’t want to be too reliant on the state calling the shots.”

Langlais said he would not rely solely on the state in deciding whether schools were safe.

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