WALDOBORO — Medomak Middle School students have been attending school remotely since February due to a water problem, but those in charge said they are working diligently to get the students back to school in person.

Facilities Director Brian Race and MMS Principal Kate Race said this is a complex issue without a simple solution.

Brian Race said the students were not able to return to school after February break.

The water system at the middle school operates differently from most buildings, Brian said. Generally buildings have one water line that services water needs, while another water line handles fire suppression.

However, the middle school has a single waterline that services both.

Brian said the whole system is operated by an electronic device, called a Programable Logic Controller or PLC. This device failed over February vacation. The building cannot be occupied if the fire suppression system is not working.

At the March 17 RSU 40 Board of Directors meeting, Brian said the quickest way to fix this problem is to replace the existing electronics.

Brian said a specialist has been working on this for several days now, and it will likely be an additional two weeks before the students are able to return to the building.

In the meantime, Kate Race said she and Assistant Principal Beth Ahlholm have been working behind the scenes to find an alternate solution.

“Remote learning is not ideal,” Kate said. Getting the students back to in person learning involves more than just getting them into a building, though. It involves transportation, internet, lunches and supplies.

“We are talking about moving and feeding and educating and distancing 300 kids and 50 plus employees,” Kate said.

“It’s a two steps ahead, three steps back situation,” Kate said. She added the biggest challenge is a lack of a clear timeline. Administrators could find a solution only to have the water system fixed the next week.

Kate and Ahlholm have been in contact with organizations in the RSU 40 community to try and arrange in person learning spaces, but Maine Fire Marshall safety guidelines have been a barrier to some of these spaces.

One possible space that would meet those safety guidelines is the First Baptist Church in Waldoboro. “They have welcomed us with open arms,” Kate said.

Kate did say she sent out a survey looking for the percentage of students who were struggling with the remote learning. She said the survey garnered 204 responses of a possible 294, with 38 percent of parents indicating remote learning was not working for their children. Kate said that is too many.

Kate added some specialized populations at the middle school have been able to arrange in person classes, and she and Ahlholm have been monitoring virtual classes and checking in with teachers and students during this time.

Kate encouraged any parents with questions to reach out to her for further clarification. “We’re not just resting on our laurels,” she said.