LEWISTON — All schools in the Lewiston Public Schools system have gone to remote learning this week after a wave of positive tests for COVID-19 and multiple instances of close contacts identified among staff members and students.

In a letter to parents on Sunday, Superintendent Jake Langlais said that since Dec. 30, he had received “numerous notifications of COVID-19 positive tests and/or close contact situations that will impact our operations,” connected to Montello, Farwell, Lewiston High School, Geiger, McMahon, Connors, and the district’s information technology department, its facilities department, and the contracted service provider for the district’s transportation.

In addition, Langlais said he had “become aware of staff and families that spent time with loved ones over the break that have not been able to arrange for a COVID-19 rapid test due to limited availability,” and he didn’t want to take any risk allowing those staffers or students into district schools.

In an email to the Sun Journal, Langlais wrote that the decision was a “heavy” one, “but I stand by it for the health and wellness of our community. I work to be mindful of the many variables, impacts on families, impacts on staff, the value of in-person instruction, and many others.”

Everyone who may have been exposed, Langlais said, has been notified.

Langlais set forth eight reasons for his decision to go to remote learning through Friday, Jan. 8. They are:

1. The exposure/symptom window for incubation/detection is 5-7 days (minimum). Any recent exposures that are not yet identified place students and staff at risk.

2. Some who intended to get rapid tests have found that they are unavailable due to the volume of requests that currently exists. Regardless of your reason or need to be tested, this window of time allows for the opportunity to take the test that is available, participate in remote school, and know your results before returning to in-person instruction.

3. Lab tests take three or more days at this time. Staff and students should not attend school until they have their results.

4. Those who may choose not to test due to the hardship of getting it scheduled can result in putting others at risk. Prior to the break we had situations where some were tested as a precaution but then attended school(s). Unexpectedly, they were positive causing a chain reaction of contact tracing and quarantine measures. This is an unnecessary risk.

5. There are staffing level concerns for in-person teaching and learning in several locations. This includes impacts to some of our staff that do follow-up work with students who are absent from school.

6. When we are in session our school teams contact each family that has a student out of school so we can monitor, track, and stay informed about symptoms, positives, and contact tracing. While we were on vacation, this doesn’t happen unless someone chooses to self report. Over the next week we ask that you call your school, email your contacts at the school, or use talking points to notify your school if anyone is not feeling well or has tested positive for COVID-19.

7. I have been following the vaccination process so we are prepared when the time comes to vaccinate school staff and others as applicable. Due to unexpectedly low numbers of vaccines landing in Maine we do not yet have a timeline for school specific vaccinations. I will continue to monitor and provide updates but we are not there yet.

8. Due to short notice, schools will not be closed to staff but they are asked to be extremely cautious in this window and work remotely where possible. Please allow for flexibility for teachers on Monday so they can arrange what is needed for remote learning.

Langlais urged families and staff members to monitor for possible symptoms and to “make the right decisions around testing/other requirements. If someone should be tested or is tested, he asks that person to communicate with their school and “help us do everything we can to keep our community as safe as possible so we can return in-person as scheduled in our hybrid model Jan. 11, 2021.”


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