This month, parents are making a difficult decision: how to educate their children in the era of Covid-19. Do they opt to send their kids to public schools? If so, do they choose in-person or remote learning, or possibly a hybrid of the two? Do they choose a smaller private school if they have funds. Or, do they homeschool their children themselves, choosing from a variety of online programs available? The answers are personal and the reasons why the families select which method of education they choose is as varied as each individual family.
The Maine Department of Education (DOE) published a Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction which includes the six requirements for protecting health and safety:
- Daily symptom self-check for students and staff before coming to school.
- Physical distancing.
- Proper hand hygiene.
- Personal protective equipment.
- An isolation plan if staff or student becomes ill.
Public schools in the area have been planning since July to follow the guidelines and have surveyed area families on their intentions and preferences between in-person or remote learning. Every step of the day has to be thought through carefully by the administrators and staff to keep in compliance with the DOE framework.
The buses, according to the RSU #18 website, will have assigned seating, fewer passengers and frequent cleanings. Parents will be asked to drive students if possible to free up the bus seats for social distancing.
Facilities at the schools will be adapted to help students and staff practice illness prevention. Drinking fountains will be replaced at some schools with bottle refill stations and students will be allowed to bring individual water bottles. Where possible, waste baskets will be replaced with touchless versions to keep clean hands sanitary after washing.
Even lunch time at school will be adapted by the nutrition workers adding appropriate protocol. Additional time will be allowed for hand washing prior to meals. Single-serve packets will be provided instead of sharing condiments. More room will be added for seating and serving lines will be socially distanced.
For specific changes at your students’ schools, check the school websites frequently:
Albion, Benton, Fairfield, Clinton Lawrence High School and Junior High.
Atwood Primary, China Primary and Middle Schools, Belgrade Central, James H. Bean Messalonskee Middle and High School, Williams Elementary.
Chelsea Elementary,Sheepscot Valley, Palermo Consolidated School, Somerville Elementary, Whitefield Elementary, Windsor Elementary.
Vassalboro Community School.
For those families who have chosen to homeschool, Homeschoolers of Maine at homeschoolersofmaine.org is an excellent resource to get you started. According to their website, a letter of your intention to homeschool is due to your superintendent of schools by September 1, 2020. This organization provides information on record keeping and assessment of your students progress.