The sign outside the Gardiner Regional Middle School shows Monday the school is closed temporarily. Officials say the school should resume remotely this week, following high COVID-19 numbers and a staffing shortage. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — The Gardiner Regional Middle School is shifting to remote instruction this week because of the number of staff members and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 and the number of quarantined students and projected staffing levels.

The decision to shift to remote instruction at the school came a day after officials announced the temporary closure of the middle school.

Patricia Hopkins, superintendent of the Gardiner-area school district, notified staff members, students and families of the remote-learning decision shortly before 2 p.m. Monday.

“Without enough staff in the building to provide instruction and supervision,” Hopkins wrote in her letter, “we are unable to safely operate in person. Looking ahead, we anticipate the return of many staff members and students by the beginning of next week.”

Hopkins said school officials are aiming to return students to in-person instruction next Monday and Tuesday.

While an uptick in COVID-19 cases has been reported at Laura E. Richards Elementary School and Gardiner Area High School, Hopkins said Monday school officials had determined they had enough staff members to continue in-person learning.


“If something significant happens in either of those buildings or in any of the other buildings, all of that could change,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said School Administrative District 11 has prioritized in-person learning for the 2021-22 academic year.

“As much as we can, we’re going to have students in the building,” she said. “That’s going to be our priority, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise across Maine since late summer. Last Wednesday, Kennebec County posted the largest single-day increase in the number of new cases since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Under the remote instruction schedule, the school day is set for 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with students logging into their Google Classroom accounts for the Google Meet link for each class.

Students who have left their district-provided Chromebooks at school are being asked to pick them up at the main office of the middle school. Students who participate in self-contained classrooms are expected to attend school in person this week.


Lunch will be available for families that wish to sign up for the service.

As she did Sunday, Hopkins noted the significant increase in positive cases in staff members and students in the district, adding students have come to school when they are sick.

Hopkins asked families and caregivers to keep students who are displaying symptoms — such as fever or chills, new loss of taste or smell, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing — at home and consult with health care providers about testing.

“Again, I know this shift to remote instruction at the Gardiner Regional Middle School presents a challenge for students, families and staff, but it is absolutely necessary,” Hopkins wrote in her letter.

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