GARDINER — Gardiner Area High School and Gardiner Regional Middle School will switch to its remote model for the week after the holiday break from Jan. 4 to Jan. 11.

The change in schedule comes after a lengthy meeting Monday when the school board decided to put the decision to remain in the hybrid model or switch to fully remote learning in the hands of the school administration.

Superintendent Pat Hopkins announced her decision in a letter to the community Tuesday afternoon, noting it was “not taken lightly.”

“When making these decisions, there is no ‘right’ answer,” she wrote. “When making these decisions, the best that I can do is follow the research and data provided by those that track the transmission of the virus in our schools.”

Hopkins’s decision comes as Maine reports the highest one-day total coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the state saw 551 new COVID-19 cases.

She said that the transmission of the virus is low when the proper social distancing guidelines are undertaken, and it is low in elementary schools compared to middle and high schools.

That is a trend that schools in the Maine Administrative School District 11 have seen in the past weeks, as students and teachers at Gardiner’s middle and high schools have contracted COVID-19.

According to a table that Hopkins put in her letter, the high school has 50 students and 12 staff members in quarantine, and two students and six staff members with COVID-19. At the middle school, one student and five staff members are in quarantine.

The two schools have been operating with a fully remote learning model since the beginning of December.

While MSAD 11’s elementary schools do have students and staff members in quarantine, they do not have any active COVID-19 cases. Those schools will return from break Jan. 4 with the hybrid-learning model that they are currently using.

“The district should learn from the Thanksgiving holiday and plan for cases after Christmas,” Hopkins said. “In MSAD 11, the middle and high school were significantly impacted by community transmissions the week following Thanksgiving.

“While the River View and Pittston-Randolph schools are also impacted,” she added, “the degree of that impact was substantially less.”

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