Lewiston Middle School will be operating remotely through Wednesday or longer. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — All students at Lewiston Middle School will learn remotely until at least Wednesday next week, Superintendent Jake Langlais wrote to the school community Saturday afternoon.

Due to a spike in COVID-19 cases among school employees, the middle school will not have enough staff to safely hold classes in-person, he said. At least 11 staff members are currently positive for the virus.

“We did not want to have to make this decision,” Langlais wrote. “Each of the last several days we have had additional cases of multiple symptoms and multiple additional staff COVID positives that require additional quarantines.”

As of late Thursday night, more than 150 of Lewiston Middle School’s 700 students were quarantining because they were in close contact with someone who tested positive. Students who are vaccinated or enrolled in the district’s pooled COVID-19 testing program do not have to quarantine if they are a close contact unless they display symptoms.

“We recognize that this is lost instructional time in person, that this puts a strain on families and disrupts many things,” he wrote. “However, the challenges of being this thin are not only too great — it poses potential for risk due to lack of staff to properly supervise, facilitate learning and carry out safety protocols should something arise.”

The soonest students could return to the classroom is Friday, as there is no school Thursday in recognition of Veterans Day.

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The decision follows a difficult week for the Lewiston school district. On Thursday, Langlais wrote that spikes in COVID-19 cases have left several schools on their “last threads” of staff coverage. On Friday, half of Lewiston Middle School students were moved to remote learning.

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., at least 95 students and staff in the Lewiston school district 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, which was last updated Thursday at 4 p.m. 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

Lewiston is not the only district which has temporarily moved students to remote learning this week. All students in the Spruce Mountain School District based in Livermore Falls will be learning from home until Nov. 15 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases last week.

Students at Maine School Administrative District 58 based in Phillips have also been moved to remote learning several times this year. Most recently, the freshman class at Mt. Abram High School was learning remotely on Oct. 27-29 due to the large number of students in quarantine.

Langlais said the school administration will continue to monitor staffing levels at Lewiston Middle School to determine when students will be able to return to the classroom.

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