Students at the K-8 Lincolnville Central School are at home, learning remotely until Dec. 7, due to several factors.

Remote schooling began Nov. 23, a week that included Thanksgiving break.

A Nov. 19 letter to families "to shed some light on how this decision was made" was sent by Principal Paul Russo of the Lincolnville Central School and School Union 69 Superintendent Kate Clark.

School administration had received messages of support as well as questions and concerns regarding the decision, they wrote.

The information in the Nov. 19 letter "may not help to lessen the blow this action imposes on your families, be we do hope that by understanding the time and effort that went into this decision, some of the questions you posed will be answered."

Factors in the decision include COVID-19 conditions in neighboring Knox County, which has fluctuated between green and yellow coding by the State education department for community virus spread over the past few weeks.

Another factor is teacher stress due to dealing with a number of possible exposures to the virus in past months, among students, staff and others. Fortunately test results came back negative, according to the letter.

A third factor is disruption to families and safety questions around operating a hybrid model, where half of the students are in the school at any one time, while the other half learn remotely.

The letter also refers to "infectious cases in the building," referring to two positive COVID-19 cases documented on Nov. 2 by the Department of Education. The letter emphasized that following Center for Disease Control and Education Department safety measures worked in preventing spread of the virus among students.

What happens in Knox County affects Lincolnville, the southernmost town in Waldo County. Russo and Clark pointed out that Lincolnville families have close ties to the Knox County community, as grades 9-12 students attend Camden Hills Regional High School, and families work and shop there.

The question was raised about whether it was more or less disruption to families to have students learning at home all the time, or to have children rotate between learning at home on some days and learning in the school on other days.

Another question was whether the spike in COVID-19 in Canada, after that country's Thanksgiving holiday, would also show up in Maine after this week's Thanksgiving holiday.

The decision to go to remote schooling for a specific timeframe was made by a Collaborative Planning Team and will be reviewed on Dec. 7, with updates for parents, according to the letter.

It states that the goal of in-person learning has not changed. When Waldo County was coded yellow for COVID-19 cases earlier this year, the Planning Team determined that was due to an outbreak in the town of Brooks, would not affect Lincolnville, and students maintained in-person education.

"Hopefully, we'll see no spike after the holidays, and cases will begin to go down. We want nothing more than to return to full in-person learning," Russo and Clark wrote.

Throughout the letter they praised students and staff for doing a great job with all of the new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"We are very proud of the tremendous effort the students and staff put in to making sure that all protocols are followed with fidelity for over six hours every day for the last 52 days."