The school year for Rockland area school students will end May 29, and plans for graduation are still in the works.

The Regional School Unit 13 Board approved the administration's emergency school plan, which calls for online education to continue through May 29, at its Thursday, April 9 meeting.

On April 7, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Education informed schools across the state to be prepared to hold online education for the remainder of the school year. Schools have been closed since March 13 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald said Monday, April 13 that an updated survey of families shows that 93 percent of students in the district have access to the internet.

"We recognize that we are not able to deliver the same level of services and instruction to students as we can when we are open. We also know that while we are all in this one-size fits all pandemic, we are not all dealing with one size fits all circumstances by any means. As a result, we are instituting “Emergency Learning” in which we prioritize the following in this order: (1) Relationships and student well-being; (2) Activities that allow for communication and collaboration; creativity and problem-solving; and critical thinking; (3) New content and skills as appropriate while working to meet students where they are and take them as far as we can," McDonald stated in an April 10 letter to the community.

The district continues to offer support and learning Monday through Friday. In addition, the district's technology support phone hotline is 466-8000 and email access is support@rsu13.org.

Families without access to the internet can access assignments and download assignments from hot spots located at all of the RSU 13 schools. The Wifi is password protected, but all of student devices have the ability to access the WiFi by going to any of the school buildings and park outside, preferably adjacent to a classroom.

Alternatively, the district will mail or deliver learning materials if necessary.

May 29 will be the final day of instruction.

The superintendent said teachers will be using June to plan and prepare student support for the following school year.

He said Oceanside High School has been developing a plan in which students will continue to participate in their education in order to earn credits.

"Again, we recognize that every student is in a unique situation, so students unable to participate due to circumstances beyond their control will receive an incomplete for courses they are unable to finish," the superintendent said.

The high school is also developing specific plans to support students who receive an incomplete. More specific information on this plan will be forthcoming for all high school families, he said.

In terms of graduation, the superintendent pointed out that educators and administrators are working hard to develop creative alternatives.

"We know how important it is to celebrate life’s milestones and that many of our students are feeling a sense of loss knowing that social distancing is preventing all of these meaningful in-person events that culminate both the end of a school year, and for our seniors, the end of their high school career," he said.

The superintendent said he did not want to speculate on what will be the recommended form of graduation.