MSAD 11 Superintendent Pat Hopkins Dec. 3 at the virtual school board meeting.

GARDINER — Gardiner Regional Middle School Principal John LaPerriere addressed the Maine School Administrative District 11 school board teary eyed as he talked about six staff members that tested positive for COVID-19.

“Some of the symptoms have been pretty serious,” he said, adding that there have been other staff members at the school that are experiencing symptoms while they wait for their test results.

Gardiner Area High School, Pittston-Randolph Consolidated School and River View Community School joined Gardiner Regional Middle School in the “red” designation Wednesday.

GRMS has been in the red since Nov. 25 and the board voted unanimously to support whichever model MSAD 11 Superintendent Pat Hopkins deemed as in the best interest of each of the schools.

Hopkins updated the school board on the current status of the coronavirus in the district. More than 245 students and more than 40 staff members are under quarantine in Maine School Administrative District 11 as of Thursday night.

Hopkins has been transparent about the number of cases that MSAD 11 has seen, including sending updates out to the community Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 with the latest numbers after the Thanksgiving break.

But already, a day after her latest update, as Hopkins put it, “the numbers change by the hour.”

At the middle school level alone, where there are six staff members that have tested positive, three students have COVID-19, and 126 are in quarantine. At Gardiner Area High School, five students and one staff member have COVID-19.

Hopkins said that the schools are in “red” and operating fully remotely because of the number of students and staff that are in quarantine, not by the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

“Our priority is to keep students in school, but we are also realizing that we don’t have enough staff, and we are trying not to mix staff between buildings,” Hopkins said. “I understand that the staff is becoming fragile right now with the stress and the fear and the concern, especially at the middle school. I am really concerned (with) the mental health and the anxiety” of the staff.

As some schools in the district have switched into the “red” because of coronavirus cases, it has caused some issues for other students, particularly those in Cohort D.

Hopkins opened the school board meeting with a letter from parent Christina Hobbs.

Hobbs, whose child attends Gardiner Regional Middle School, requested that the board consider the importance of students in Cohort D learning in person, even if MSAD 11 is designated “red.”

The switch to “red” for GRMS has made it hard for Hobbs’s son to progress. When he learns in person, he can work on his speech and specialized services. Being out of a routine has caused her son to have to learn material all over again.

“Being out of school has caused a strain on his learning,” Hobbs wrote in a letter to the school board. “His speech has been non-existent, and being in ‘red,’ with the reduced instruction hours, the teachers can only do so much, and it makes it difficult for him to do his work.”

MSAD 11 is hosting school through a hybrid model and separates students into four different cohorts. Cohorts A and B switch in between in person and remote learning, Cohort C is fully remote and Cohort D is in-person learning for students that may need to work one-on-one with a teacher.

Parents urged MSAD 11 to switch to fully remote learning at the last school board meeting Nov. 6. The board voted against it and decided to revisit the issue after the holiday season.

Special services teacher in MSAD 11 Elisha Morris said that students who receive these services are unable to access their work remotely.

“The proposal would be that special services programs would continue four days a week, even when in the ‘red’ model,” Morris said to the meeting.

Morris spoke on the proposal, adding that she was able to speak with all of the teachers in the special services sector of MSAD 11 and had them come up with a plan for operating in the ‘red,’ and a back up plan. Building administration and nurses would be in the schools and lunch programs would run as scheduled.

The proposal passed with 11 board members in favor, with one against from Tony Veit.

“My concern is, the impact of a long-term on illness, or risk of death with the illness. That I have great concerns about,” Viet said. “It’s really unpredictable.”

Morris after the vote said that it’s not mandatory for students to attend and in with the new proposal, the special services team is going to be calling parents to make sure they are comfortable with sending students to school while the school is designated red.

The board voted unanimously to postpone the Japan, Italy and Greece trips that were set for April 2021 until April 2022.

The board voted to have a combined cheer team with Hall-Dale High School.

As part of the National Honor Society, School Board Student Representative Gwen Bolduc-Ignasiak updated the school board on GAHS’ Thanksgiving baskets that were given out to over 200 families last week. The goal was to hand out 250 baskets, but there were some people that did not show up to claim theirs. Leftovers were donated to the Tiger Food Panty.

GAHS will be in the “red” learning zone until Dec. 11, while Pittston-Randolph Consolidated School will be through Dec. 7 and River View Community School will be designated red until Dec. 15.

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.