LEWISTON — The School Committee on Monday voted 6-2 to “stay the course” with its hybrid instruction plan until the end of the school year.

That means no additional in-person classes.

Superintendent Jake Langlais recommended no change to the district’s schedule of students in all grades attending classes two days a week and getting remote instruction two days. Another group works remotely four days a week.

“I philosophically want kids back in school as soon as possible and as much as possible,” Langlais told the committee.

But the feasibility of sending students to school, even for half a day Wednesday, clashed with his philosophy, he said.

“We looked at all kinds of ideas and the logistics of each,” he said.

He said he consulted other administrators and the Lewiston Education Association and reviewed local, state and federal sources.

Keeping everyone safe from the coronavirus is the priority, he said.

“The fact that vaccinations remain undone for educators is a major influence,” Langlais wrote in a memo to the School Committee.

He estimated that the number of adults working for the district (1,500) and the need for two shots of COVID-19 vaccine would push the date for vaccinating all staff to May.

He said the district’s size (5,200 students) and its makeup (high rates of poverty and English language learning students) create complications that other districts don’t face in reopening schools.

For example, state guidelines require students to be spaced 6 feet apart on buses and in classrooms and that would not be feasible, he said.

And teachers are already stressed and overworked, he said.

“I think it’s time to tell parents and teachers that we stay the course for the rest of this school year,” he said.

Committee member Ron Potvin said many of his constituents were opposed to that.

“I’m here to send a message from the opposite side,” Potvin said.

“A chunk of my constituents are hospital workers and a good chunk are ambulance drivers. They go to work every day and do what they have to do,” he said.

He said people also work in grocery stores and at the county jail every day.

“These people are paying the bill for schools to do their job,” Potvin said. “They are not happy that their families are dealing with COVID, but somehow education is getting a pass.”

Teachers were upset by Potvin’s appeal and several spoke to the committee about it.

“My husband and I pay about $6,000 a year in taxes to the city,” teacher Rachel Nadeau said. “I’m a public servant and a taxpayer.”

She said the stress of the job and the news that a colleague had been killed in a home invasion left her feeling “like I’d been struck in the head with a 2×4. I feel myself going in a bad direction.”

She asked the committee not to make any more changes to schedules. Many teachers and students could not deal with it, she said.

In a survey conducted by the teachers’ union, nearly three-fourths of those who responded said they would not feel comfortable spending more time in school buildings.

Committee member Paul Beauparlant, a teacher for more than 20 years in Auburn, said he could not advocate for more in-person instruction in Lewiston.

“I would not want go back until all teachers are vaccinated, until we get government medical clearance,” he said. “We can’t take a risk. We have to be totally safe.”

Alicia Rea, the City Council representative to the committee, made a motion to adopt Langlais’ recommendation and to hold a forum or a series of forums for people to ask questions and for district administrators to clarify state guidelines and the logistics under which decisions are made.

Potvin and Chairwoman Megan Parks voted against the motion.

“The reality is that vaccinations are not keeping kids out of schools,” Parks said. If the committee wasn’t advocating for returning students to in-person instruction, “we are doing kids and families a disservice,” she said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: