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7/26/2020 Update on the Return to School
Mary Paine
Sunday, July 26, 2020

Dear RSU2 Parents and Guardians,

We are just over a month away from the beginning of the 20-21 school year, and it seems the entire nation is talking about what school will be like in the fall as the COVID-19 virus surges in many areas of the country. Here in Maine, we can be grateful that the infection and mortality rates are relatively low, even as we are frequently reminded by the Maine CDC that our circumstances could change rapidly if we do not adhere to practices that have helped stem the infection rate so far.

It is this combination of factors that makes planning for the return to school challenging. If we could be sure that the situation in Maine were stable, we would be planning for a normal return to school with few safety precautions needed. But we know it’s possible that a normal return to school could contribute to an increase in infection rate and put children, their families, school staff, and the community at risk. This is why the Maine Department of Education, and the CDC are continuing to refine the criteria schools must meet for safely returning to in-person learning.

Greater clarity from the State is welcome, but changes in criteria has meant changes in RSU 2 planning. In my July 14 update, I said we would soon release three overview charts that map out the details of each of the three scenarios the DOE has asked us to plan for. Then on July 17, The DOE announced the updated Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction, which has a new set of criteria for the safety measures schools are required to have in place in order to open. You can read those required safety measures in Part I of the Framework.

Given the new criteria, the RSU COVID-19 Response Team is in the process of revising our initial plans to ensure that they are in alignment with the new state and CDC criteria. The main question we must answer is Under which return-to-school scenario will we be able to meet and enforce the safety criteria? At this time we are finding that the new safety criteria present significant barriers to a 100% return to school, and we are considering options, which include a hybrid model that would reduce the number of students in our schools at one time and allow us to provide a high quality experience, both in-person and remotely. We hope to bring the finalized draft of our proposed model to the Board of Directors in early August for review and approval.

Thanks, again, to all who completed the Return to Learning Parent Survey, which was open from June 26 through July 7. The information we gained was invaluable in our planning. For example, we learned that a majority of parents want their children in school but are also very concerned about safety; a majority would prefer a hybrid model over an all-remote learning model; and most want more accountability, equity, and structure in a remote learning model. You can see summary charts of the parent survey data here.

Please keep in mind that in this ever-changing environment, if we were to resurvey parents, we might get different results. In fact, a few parents have told me they have changed their minds about sending their child to school since taking the survey. To get current and personalized data, we will be conducting a second, non-anonymous survey at the school level. It is important that every parent or guardian complete this survey for each of their children. We want every school-aged child and family in the RSU accounted for in our planning. Please be watching for the Individualized Return to School Parent Survey, which will be sent out by your child’s principal.

Wishing you all good health and good spirits,

Mary Paine
Acting Superintendent
7 Reed St.
Hallowell, ME 04347
(207) 557-0062