Courier-Gazette Letters to the Editor Dec. 10

Dec 11, 2020

RSU 40 School Board to allow winter sports but keep doors closed to academics

Working as an RN in two local hospitals during this pandemic, I believe I understand the current challenges facing our community.

However, I'm confused as to why the administration and school board of RSU 40 voted to keep Medomak Valley High School classes fully remote until at least Feb. 1, 2021. This decision fails to respect the CDC recommendations for our students.

The initial MVHS closure occurred after an outbreak of the virus among student athletes on soccer fields and basketball courts. At the conclusion of the quarantine, RSU 40 decided to remain closed, rationalizing the holidays will increase Coronavirus transmission. Interpretation of infection rates and health statistics is not the role of the school board or superintendent.

Thankfully, the Maine CDC provides recommendations for schools based on current and local epidemiological data. We can also benefit from the Maine Department of Education guidance which states "evidence continues to suggest a relatively low risk of school-based transmission of COVID-19 and affirm the importance of keeping some level of in-person instruction for students whenever possible."

When asked about the decision to remain fully remote, Superintendent Nolan stated there were schedule challenges for students attending the Midcoast School of Technology and with the current hybrid learning schedule. He professes the fully remote schedule allows students more time with their teachers.

There were, however, no promises of solving those scheduling issues promptly or returning to hybrid/full in-person instruction in February. Parents were simply told the board plans to reassess mid-January.

After weeks of staring at computer screens, struggling to submit assignments via precarious wi-fi and attempting to learn concepts such the chemical bonds of compounds via Google Classroom, the students learned the school board has approved an indoor winter sports season.

This is particularly upsetting as students and parents anticipate a February return to school and the fear of another sports outbreak thwarting those plans. What message does this send to those students who need, and desperately want a quality education? What are the priorities of this school district?

If the school board believes indoor sports pandemic-safe, it seems only logical they would also support students attending school in-person. This recent vote sends a disturbing message to the MVHS community: The priority of RSU 40 is athletics rather than academics.

College Board SAT data from 2017-2018 showed MVHS as ranking "below expectations" in a national ranking in both academics and mathematics. I doubt there are many potential pro athletes being scouted for their basketball superstardom.

It is time for the school board of RSU 40 to put education first.

Cecily Havener

Friendship

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