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RSU 13 holds off decision on school re-opening plan until Thursday night

By Stephen Betts | Aug 11, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Regional School Unit 13 Board met Tuesday evening, Aug.11.

Rockland — The Rockland area school board had many questions and voiced several concerns during a three-hour meeting Tuesday evening on a proposed plan to re-open schools in four weeks.

And in the end, the Regional School Unit 13 Board voted to hold off a vote on the plan until a Thursday evening Aug. 13 meeting that will begin at 6:30.

The Rockland area school district is proposing a reopening plan that would have kindergarteners through fifth graders attend in person each weekday while middle schoolers would attend in person every other day and remote learning the other days, and high schoolers would have two days of in-person classes followed by two days of remote learning.

In-person schooling ended March 13 in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.

Board member Carol Bachofner said she would propose at the Thursday evening meeting that only remote learning be put in place for the first quarter and hold off the proposed re-opening plan until it is clear that it can be done safely.

Teacher Wendy Jacques, chief negotiator of the Seacoast Education Association, said she was extremely upset by the suggestion that a plan worked on all summer by staff would be thrown out the window.

Bachofner said the plan would not be thrown out the window but simply delayed being used.

"We're not here to rubber stamp," Bachofner said.

Board member Doug Curtis Jr. of Rockland said he loves and respect the staff and administration but he also would not rubber stamp a plan. The decision rests with the board, he said.

Board member Mark Lewis of Thomaston suggested phasing in the elementary students since it would take time to teach them about proper hygiene and sanitation.

The hybrid model of classes for the middle school and high school is proposed to reduce the number of students in the building at one time to allow for physical distancing as recommended by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

At Oceanside High School, 520 students are expected to be enrolled. The number of students who will decide to learn remotely is uncertain. The same is true at Oceanside Middle School which has about 376 students.

Board member Tom Peaco of Rockland asked what would be the number of students that could be in the buildings to allow for in-person education each day.

Peaco pointed out there is no community spread in Knox County with only one active confirmed case countywide.

"If we can't have full in-person learning now when will ever be able to?" Peaco asked.

Superintendent John McDonald said that was difficult to answer since the requirement for physical distancing is from the state.

"Kids are falling behind," Peaco said about the lack of full in-person learning. "We should bend over backwards to get students with teachers every day."

Board member Amy Williams-Beers of Thomaston said the district needs to reduce the fears of parents. She asked why the district could not follow the model used by the Camden-Rockport schools in which teachers can hold classes remotely with a pod of students who would gather in someone's home.

She said one student could spread to an entire class of 20 in one hour. She also questioned about high school students who attend the Mid-Coast School of Technology possibly exposing Oceanside students to another wider group of people.

Board member Gerald Weinand of Rockland said the district does not have control over the students' entire lives and when they are not in school they may have jobs or play sports. He also stressed there was no community spread of COVID-19 in the community.

The superintendent stressed that the policy is one that may shift over time depending on the state of the virus.

"While we are proud of the work that has taken place, we recognize that there is no perfect answer that will meet the needs of every family, particularly if we have to make shifts in our scenario over time," RSU 13 stated in a notice posted on its Facebook page and website about the plan.

"We also recognize that although we feel that providing in-person education for our students helps us best meet our priorities outlined in our introduction, we acknowledge that schedules, routines, and even the layout of classrooms, bus seating, and lunch procedures will look different from the past and that it will take effort on everyone’s part in order to ensure that we adhere to our safety protocols," the statement continues.

The district is also recommending that students and staff who are considered to be at higher risk talk with their healthcare provider for advice on whether to return in person.

"We also acknowledge that it may not be possible for some of our RSU 13 members to return in person, so while it is our goal to have our learning population back to in-person learning as often as possible, we have an additional goal to offer a remote option for all grade levels.  More details on this option will be forthcoming as we continue to establish staffing patterns and assess the level of need from the community.  The Maine Department of Education will be releasing a curriculum known as MOOSE (Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education), but they have yet to share an overview at the time of the publication of this draft," the district states.

When staff and students are in school they will be required to wear face coverings.  They will also be required to stay home if they feel any symptoms.

If there is an outbreak of the virus, there will be a switch to remote learning.

Remote education is planned on snow days.

Field trips will not take place until further notice.

The meeting was being broadcast online until there was a technical problem that ended the live broadcast. People then began joining the meeting on the Zoom platform and had 82 people watching or participating at the peak. At least 25 were board members and staff.

Stefanny Tribou, director of curriculum, assessment and instruction, said a survey would be sent out to parents as soon as the Board made a decision.

The following is the sample schedules for Oceanside Middle School and Oceanside High School. The district serves Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston, and Cushing.

Sample OMS Schedule

Sample OHS Schedule

Monday:  Team Blue (Grade 6-8)

Tuesday:  Team White (Grade 6-8)

Wednesday:  Team Blue (Grade 6-8)

Thursday:  Team White (Grade 6-8)

Friday:  Team Blue (Grade 6-8)

Monday:  Team White (Grade 6-8)

Block 1 7:30-8:35

Block 2 8:40-9:45

Block 3 9:50-10:55

Block 4 11:00-12:05

Lunch Pick Up 12:05-12:20

Targeted Learning/Virtual Learning 12:25-2:00

Virtual Check In: 2:05-2:30

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Comments (8)
Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Aug 13, 2020 08:00

careful consideration is VERY smart. read this by Dr. Sanjay Gupta why he is NOT sending his kids back  to school.


I would never, ever take a chance with my son's life.

Never, even if the virus is a hoax some say ( I do NOT agree with that!)

I would not risk my son's life or getting sick and spreading it to anyone

teachers, janitors, substitutes, etc. etc.

Always..........."better safe than sorry!"

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 12, 2020 16:18


I do not see were anyone is rushing into anything. The school board and everyone else knows that school starts the end of August, beginning of September.  It is almost the middle of August with no plan as to what to do with all of the students. The school board has had ample time, over two months, to decide what to do. Parents need to know what  is going on so they can prepare.   The majority of the schools in Maine already have a plan.  What is taking RSU 13 so long?

Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | Aug 12, 2020 12:53

Posted by Nancy Fitzgerald

By the pictures posted with this article, it appears that 25 people attended the last RSU 13 school board meeting, held online, and would guess that many plus other interested people may attend the next one, also online. That is still less than the number of students that would be physically attending school. If the school board is reluctant to meet in person, how on earth can they expect parents to gladly send their children to school to spend the day inside, with little outside ventilation. They will be spending the day in a classroom with 15 or more other students and staff. I am not choosing online vs. in-house education, but do think the administration and school board need to address why they are encouraging in-house when they are not willing to do the same.


Posted by: Gayle Murphy | Aug 12, 2020 12:48

Peaco pointed out there is no community spread in Knox County with only one active confirmed case countywide.


"If we can't have full in-person learning now when will ever be able to?" Peaco asked.


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  THIS!




Posted by: Melissa Byer | Aug 12, 2020 10:23

At this point they need to figure this out. There are a hundred diff. What if situations on both sides. Parents at this point need to figure out how this is going to happen. Parents need to make plans. This is crazy!

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Aug 12, 2020 10:05

These are difficult decisions. Kudos to the board for coming this far.  I agree with Mr. Carroll, "Once you start there is no going back if you are wrong.".    Will  look forward to listening to the meeting  Thursday night.


Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 12, 2020 08:09

I think it is a positive move that the school board is considering a plan to postpone the first quarter while the real threat of this virus reoccurring is a distinct possibility.  Even to consider a plan similar to the in-home "pod" learning groups could in a substantial way reduct the threat of a viral spread. Once you start there is no going back if you get it wrong. Yet you still have this group pushing the corporate line of "get them back to work"  and keep the machine going. Let's not just rush in, but allow cooler heads to prevail.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 12, 2020 07:58

I do not understand why RSU 13 has not made a decision yet when all other schools have.  Teachers were taking instruction on COVID-19 during June.  A few months of planning and the parents should been notified the beginning of August to prepare.  Why is RSU 13 always lagging behind?

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