Becky Fles, chairperson of MSAD 11 School Board.

GARDINER — Thursday night’s Maine School Administrative District 11 board meeting started with emails from two parents, urging the district to stay with full remote learning until coronavirus cases across the state slow down.

“The transitions from hybrid to remote are too difficult to implement,” parent Meaghan Carlson wrote. “I anticipate that with more than 100 cases each day, we may see remote learning more often.”

With the increase in COVID-19 cases, Carlson “doesn’t feel comfortable” sending her kids to school to learn in person, anymore.

The board heard from another parent, Katie Labbe, who felt similar to Carlson, and didn’t want to experience another school-related quarantine, like the one that her family just got out of.

“I feel that the school district needs to stay in the red, especially with the holidays quickly approaching,” she said in the email. “We don’t want to do another school-related quarantine or be the cause of disrupting families.”

The two parents are referring to MSAD 11’s switch to a fully remote learning model after the district was deemed “red,” resulting from the coronavirus cases that the district has seen in the past week.

On Monday, it was reported that there were:

• Two positive cases at Gardiner Area High School

• Two positive and one probable case at Gardiner Regional Middle School

• One positive and two probable cases at Laura E. Richards School

• One positive and two probable cases at Helen Thompson School

In total, there are 198 students and 39 staff members in MSAD 11 quarantining at home, according to an email Monday from MSAD 11 Superintendent Pat Hopkins to the Kennebec Journal. On Thursday, 28 staff members and 128 students at the high school level will be out of quarantine.

Hopkins said zero cases within the schools in MSAD 11 occurred from transmission within the school.

“All transmission has occurred outside, through family contact, or other activities on the weekend or evening outside of school,” she said.

School nurses are the ones that have called parents to alert them of their child’s possible exposure to the coronavirus, and some parents, Hopkins said, are unaccepting of the news, bringing them to check with the CDC for information that may be different.

“The Department of Education clarified that because the CDC is so overwhelmed, there is lag time from when the information is provided to the CDC and when it is inserted into the computer,” she said. “The message delivered from the DOE is that we need to be listening to school nurses.”

Hopkins worked with school nurses to make the call about the switch to fully remote learning until Nov. 9.

They said that it was the best call to make to minimize any stress from families who may have students at schools across MSAD 11, and 20% to 30% of students were not showing up to class out of an abundance of caution.

But with the red model for the past couple weeks, parent Angie Morland brought up how difficult it is for her three, school-aged children to learn in the fully remote model.

“We don’t have a stable internet connection and we don’t have a connection through safelight,” she wrote in an email. “There is a delay in video, and we can only have one device connected at one time.”

Ashley Healy, a mother of a fourth grader said that in the red model, it’s difficult for her young child to sit through the long lesson, especially when she and her partner have to work.

“Some families cannot log in during the day,” Victoria Duguay, River View Community School principal, said. “If there is a family that is unable to connect, and can do work at night, just reach out to the teacher. We are marking the child present during the day if the parent communicates with the teacher.”

She added that some teachers are doing lessons that are prerecorded, or recording some of their lessons later so students can tune in when their internet connection allows.

Other students in the MSAD 11 district have talked about tough internet connection at their house, and Superintendent Hopkins said that hot spots are available at the schools for families to take home.

As of now, MSAD 11 is planning on resuming in person classes on Nov. 9, but Hopkins will be closely monitoring the situation in the coming week.

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