In response to the coronavirus threat, Camden-Rockport Middle School has postponed an eighth-grade student exchange trip to Japan, and the Five Town Community School District has developed and shared a district coronavirus pandemic plan with parents.

The exchange program with Japan has been going on for about 22 years, according to Principal Jaime Stone. The program is the longest-standing cultural exchange program in the Camden-Rockport and Five Town districts, according to Superintendent Maria Libby.

Stone issued a statement March 3 in regard to the international exchange trip, saying CRMS decided to postpone the annual trip to Japan, originally scheduled for April.

The school evaluated a number of factors in making this difficult decision, she said. Those factors included the comfort of traveling families, Japanese hosts and minimizing the risk of any potential exposure to coronavirus, as well as its responsibility to its local community.

In weighing all of the details, it was clear a trip this April was not realistic, she said.

Stone said the hope is to reschedule the trip to Japan for another date."We are working with our Japanese colleagues, as well as paying attention to medical information, to help determine when the trip can be rescheduled," she said. At this time, there are no specific plans for a make-up date, and the community will be kept informed as they learn more, she said.

When the Japanese students visited the middle school and lived with their host families earlier this year, the whole school was involved with festivities, including a five towns dance, Stone said. The Japanese students taught fifth-grade students calligraphy, tried rock wall climbing at the YMCA, took a trip to Hope Air, went ice skating at the Midcoast Recreation Center and were treated to a lobster bake, Stone said.

District plans

A district coronavirus pandemic plan was shared with parents via email March 6.

Libby said that prior to releasing the plan, she and the heads of numerous public and private schools in the area met with Dr. Cheryl Liechty, the local infectious disease expert, to discuss plans and procedures for dealing with the coronavirus.

The district is taking the following actions to sanitize buildings and buses:

  • Daily antibacterial and anti-virus cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
  • Increased ventilation to the facility during the day, in order to decrease spread of disease. After-school ventilation and cleaning the school involving either opening all doors and windows or turning up the air conditioning or heating systems.
  • Treating buses daily with antibacterial and anti-virus cleaning of seat backs, step railings and steering wheel, and weekly antibacterial fumigation.
  • Provision of ample supplies of antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer and tissues.

The plan also involves educating students about actions to help stop the spread of the virus:

  • Education about everyday preventive actions.
  • Prominent posting at all entry points to school buildings, advising staff, students and visitors not to enter if they have symptoms of influenza.
Part of the plan involves requirements that staff report and monitor any signs of illness. These actions include:
  • Staff reporting of any students exhibiting signs of illness to the school nurse.
  • Vigilant monitoring by nurses of the student body, especially in cases where students exhibit symptoms associated with the virus.
  • Close monitoring and reporting pf absences, and notification of district administrators and public health officials of patterns of increased absences.
  • Identification of any student who is at high risk for infection and meetings with parents to plan appropriately.

Another part of the plan focuses on maximizing  communication with parents and the school community related to health, safety and any pandemic episode, keeping personnel informed of the latest developments in any pandemic episode and keeping area school officials informed of any actions being taken by the district.

Consideration will be given to further responses to the pandemic, according to the plan. These may include spacing students at least three feet apart and minimizing group work, telecommuting and video conferencing meetings when possible, modifying,  postponing, or canceling large school events and extracurricular activities and delaying or canceling planned domestic or international travel with students.

In the case of a severe pandemic, the plan includes consideration of school building closure and the implementation of remote school days. The plans states that lunch and other social services may continue in the event of a building closure.

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