The Camden-Rockport and Five Town school districts will finish out the year with buildings closed, students learning remotely and possibly an alternative graduation.

Superintendent Maria Libby announced the decision to keep classrooms closed in a letter to parents and members of the school community.

The decision is based on recommendations by Gov. Janet Mills, Education Commissioner Pender Makin and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines of an 8 to 20-week time frame for avoiding large group and in-person instruction once there is evidence of community transmission of COVID-19.

Considerable disappointments, a sense of loss and challenges for families come with this decision, Libby stated.

“Seniors will experience a significant loss by not experiencing the normal rites of passage as they transition out of high school."

Libby hinted that plans are in the works for “alternative ways to safely redesign graduation and other important end of the year happenings to provide continuity, an ongoing sense of community and some closure.”

She said the sense of loss "of the community developed through the daily life of a school" extends to all students, families and staff, from the small act of passing a friend in the hall, to cheering shoulder-to-shoulder for school sports teams.

School closure brings multiple challenges for families, she said, including coping with childcare and managing school expectations, while grappling with the personal and financial challenges the COVID-19 crisis presents,

Last day of school

School districts have the option of determining the last day of school, Libby said, as the state has waived the required 175 minimum-student-days this year. Because Camden-Rockport and Five Town districts had only one day between ceasing in-person learning and starting remote learning, the districts will have more school days than others in the state, she said.

Libby said she will wait several weeks before recommending a year-end date for approval by the school board. Before making a decision, she said she will gather information and input from parents, students, and teachers, and be weighing many different factors.

If the school year ends early, teachers will continue to work their contracted number of days doing important curriculum work and professional development, Libby said.

School budget vote

Libby said April 10 that school budget votes will not occur in June, as they do each year, but will be postponed. She said they would take place at the same time state primary and referendum elections take place, which currently is July 14, according to Governor Janet Mills.

The school district does not have the option of holding a vote for its budgets on its own, since “we need the cooperation of the five towns, and everyone needs to feel safe,” she said.