A sign at the entrance to Penquis Valley Middle School and Penquis Valley High School in Milo greets vehicles as they drive past. Credit: Valerie Royzman / BDN

MILO, Maine — School Administrative District 41 in Milo switched to remote learning this week following a rise in COVID-19 cases just weeks into the new school year.

Students were scheduled to learn remotely through Wednesday, when district administrators would determine what the remainder of the week looked like, Superintendent Michael Wright said. According to Penquis Valley Middle School’s Facebook page on Wednesday, remote learning was extended through Friday. Classes are scheduled to resume Monday.

After school shutdowns and pandemic learning posed major challenges to education — and for some students, upended life as they knew it — some families anticipated this year would be more normal. It’s unclear how many COVID-19 cases SAD 41 is dealing with, but the district’s transition to remote learning shows the lingering effects of the pandemic on schools in Maine.

The move to remote learning is “due to COVID and other illnesses, and our inability to cover staffing positions in our schools,” Wright said.

SAD 41 serves Milo, Brownville and LaGrange.

In a letter to parents shared on Facebook, Penquis Valley Middle School Principal Tina Dumond thanked parents for their understanding and said she was one of the recent positive COVID-19 cases.

Dumond shared a schedule and expectations for the week, noting students’ assignments will be posted on Google Classroom and teachers will have office hours from 1:25 to 3 p.m. Students will be counted as present for the day if they communicate with teachers and are getting work done, she said.

An Outing Club trip scheduled for Wednesday was canceled, she said.

The district is providing bagged lunches during the remote learning period, but students or parents have to pick them up at the high school kitchen. Schools held laptop pick-up hours Monday morning for students who had left their devices at school.