LEWISTON — A School Committee member Monday night pushed for a vote to move students to fully remote instruction because of a local surge in COVID-19 cases.

The committee voted 6-1 against a motion made by Kiernan Majerus-Collins to close all Lewiston Public Schools until after the Thanksgiving break.

“The level of exponential spread of this disease in our community is untenable,” he said.

“Every leader has the responsibility to do whatever they can to slow this down and get through it without more loss of life,” he added.

Androscoggin County is seeing a dramatic increase in infections. The Maine Department of Education on Friday raised the county’s designation from “green” to “yellow,” meaning transmission of the disease has risen.

An outbreak was reported at Lewiston High School, which led Superintendent Jake Langlais to close the school until Nov. 18 for deep cleaning.

Langlais said Monday night he was confused by the Maine Center for Disease Control’s advice that the district “do nothing” about the outbreak.

The outbreak included three cases within 12 days (an outbreak is defined as three or more cases at a school within 14 days).

But two of the students had not been in school when they became infectious, Langlais said.

Even so, he said, “as superintendent I can’t carry an outbreak designation and do nothing.”

He said the CDC had determined that the transmission of the virus had not occurred at the school but in the community.

“In the world of transmission, we are doing well,” he said.

But Majerus-Collins pointed out that half of the people who get COVID-19 don’t know where they got it.

“That suggests a lot of asymptomatic cases, including probably some in schools,” he said.

He noted that students who have tested positive at Bates College — the only institution in the community that does universal testing — have all been asymptomatic, meaning they had no symptoms.

For the second week in a row, Majerus-Collins did not sway other committee members, who acknowledged a shutdown would likely occur at some point.

“I think we need to go back to the science,” member Elgin Physic said. “The doctor who works for the governor is (saying schools are safe) because of science.”

Physic said the district has seen “only six” cases.

“We need to trust the system that has been in place,” he said. “It has worked thus far.”

Allison Lytton, president of the Lewiston Education Association, told the committee that closing schools would be a double-edged sword.

It would be less stressful for teachers to teach all children remotely, rather than teaching some in person and some remotely.

But they would miss their students, she said.

“The reality is that we are enjoying being with our kids and providing a service for parents,” she said.

She said a decision would be needed at some point.

“In the meantime, we can prepare educators and parents,” she said. “We can start sharing with parents that if this does occur, here’s what we need for you to help us.”

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