LEWISTON — Three of six teams of students at Lewiston Middle School switched to remote learning Friday due to staffing shortages worsened by rising COVID-19 cases.

Students and staff in teams Voyager, Denali and Haleakala worked from home, while the other three teams are learning in-person at the school.

“We recognize that this is lost instructional time in person, that this puts a strain on families and disrupts many things,” Langlais wrote Thursday night advising the school community of the change. “However, the challenges of being too thin are too great. This time will be used to assess, analyze, plan for future situations that may have similar challenges and consider the ways in which we can best serve students given the state of things.”

According to his message, 10 staff members are absent from the middle school because they tested positive for COVID-19. Six additional staff members who were in contact with positive students and staff are also displaying symptoms.

In total, over 150 students are being quarantined because they were identified as close contacts. Students who are vaccinated or enrolled in the district’s pooled testing program do not have to quarantine, unless they are symptomatic.

Langlais said there may be a need for other schools in the district to go remote in the coming days if staffing falls too low.

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“We have to strike a balance between our commitment to having in-person school, the wellness of our staff, and taking the time necessary to collaboratively build adaptive responses for changing situations,” he said.

Langlais said earlier this week that staffing at Farwell, Geiger and McMahon elementary schools has been particularly concerning for administrators this week. However, all three schools were learning fully in-person Friday.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control Maine Schools 30 Day COVID-19 Case Report dashboard, which was last updated Thursday at 4 p.m., there have been at least 95 students and staff in the Lewiston school district who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 30 days.

A screenshot of the Maine Schools 30 Day COVID-19 Case Report for Lewiston Schools. An outbreak was identified in Geiger elementary school last week, which is why it is orange. As of Thursday, Montello elementary school identified less than five cases of COVID-19. Screenshot

In contrast, the dashboard shows that the Auburn School District has recorded at least 60 positive COVID-19 cases in the past 30 days.

According to Auburn school district data, 32 students and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks. Ninety-seven students and 12 staff members have tested positive since the school year began two months ago.

Two weeks ago, the Auburn school district implemented universal masking in response to an outbreak at Edward little High School. As of Friday, elevated cases of COVID-19 have not forced the district to modify school learning.

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