Parents are being surveyed and providing feedback to Camden-Rockport and Five Town CSD school district officials about reopening schools in the fall.

Preliminary survey

The majority of parents responding to a survey in mid-July favored sending their students back to school, assuming appropriate safety measures are in place, with 102 parents with students in grades 1 through 4 and 300 parents with students in grades 5 through 12 in favor.

Parents not in favor of sending their grade 1-4 children back to school totaled 17, and parents who were not sure totaled 42. Parents not in favor of sending their grades 5-12 children back to school totaled 41, with 110 unsure.

Parents responding no and not sure about sending their students back to school in the fall were asked how their children would access education.

A strong majority of parents of students in grades 5-12 chose remote learning.

The top choice for parents of grades 1-4 students was home schooling.The majority of these parents were not in favor of remote schooling, if offered. This is not currently an option for these grades.

New survey, draft plan for coming school year

Parents responded to a second survey the week of July 27. Before taking the survey, they were asked to read a draft plan outlining several options for 2020-21 school year.

The plan provides three variations for the 2020-21 school year that are required by the state to be part of a reopening plan, each contingent on local health indicators, according to Superintendent Maria Libby, for Camden-Rockport and Five Town school districts.

While following state guidelines, this local plan leaves options open for families.

"We feel good about creating a plan that will allow parents a choice in how they want their child(ren) to access school, based on their level of comfort with the many safety guidelines we plan to have in place," Libby said.

The survey asks parents four questions: what parts of the plan do they particularly appreciate, what parts of the plan are they concerned about, whether they think their child will return to school in person or learn remotely and to provide specific feedback on any part of the plan.

One scenario outlined in the report is to return as many students back to their schools as possible, with a parent option to choose remote learning only for their children.

This scenario is based on the current state of COVID-19 in the community.

Local health data, as of July 22, shows Maine as one of three states in the country where cases are decreasing. Data also shows a low hospitalization rate and the lowest rate of virus reproduction in the country, according to the draft plan.

A second scenario combines both going back to school in-person with remote learning, which would alternate on a regular schedule. This scenario would reduce the number of students in each school at any one time, if health and safety requirements did not allow bringing all students back into the schools at the same time, or if COVID-19 circumstances change.

A third scenario is remote schooling only. School districts in Maine are required to plan for this option in case school closures are again required.

Across the three scenarios, all schools will have plans for students with disabilities and English learners. In-person education will be prioritized for these students.

Libby said parents will be surveyed one more time, and in this survey asked to commit to whether they will send their children to school or choose remote education.

New safety measures

Proposed safety measures for in-school education, would include daily health screenings at the start of each school day for teachers, staff and students, quarantines for students returning to Maine from certain states (following state rules), social distancing and mask wearing.

The many details in the draft plan are subject to change as feedback comes in from parents and school boards, according to Libby.

Mask wearing will be required indoors of all teachers, staff and students, except when eating breakfast and lunch, with face shields allowed for those who cannot wear masks. There will be indoor mask breaks and masks will not be required outdoors. In general, social distancing of sometimes 6-feet, and other times 3-feet, will be in place in all aspects of school, from classrooms to movement through hallways.

Many changes in the typical ways things have been done are covered in the plan, from limiting parent volunteers to outdoor activities, to creative ways to transform band and chorus classes using remote technology.

Plans for sports are evolving, and will be reviewed again at the end of summer. At minimum, fall sports teams will practice and hold intra-squad competitions.

School board discussion

Plans for the coming school year discussed by Camden-Rockport and Five Town CSD boards August 5 at 5 p.m., and possibly again on Aug. 12.