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Schools likely to remain closed until fall

By Stephen Betts | Apr 08, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Meals continue during the shutdown to any student or person younger than 18 years old in the RSU 13 communities.

Maine schools are likely to remain closed through the end of the school year, but online education and meals will continue.

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin issued a statement April 7 on the department's website.

"US CDC guidance recommends an eight-to-20 week timeframe for avoiding large group/in-person instruction once there is evidence of community transmission of COVID-19.  Therefore, I am recommending, with the support of the Governor, that you begin to plan to replace classroom/group instruction with remote/distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year," Makin stated.

"It is difficult to make such a recommendation, recognizing the profound challenge of reinventing public education and the many culminating events and rites of passage that educators and students anticipate all year long. I also realize that this recommendation will be difficult for families to hear, given the challenges of childcare and managing school expectations on top of the other significant impacts of this state and national emergency," she said.

"That said, I believe it is extremely important for school leaders to have as much information as possible in order to best prepare educators, students, and communities for a longer period of remote learning and to promote opportunities for redesigned celebrations and alternative ways to provide both continuity and closure," the commissioner stated.

Local superintendents had braced for that possibility.

Regional School Unit 13 Superintendent John McDonald posted a notice on the district's website April 3.

"Last night, after listening to Commissioner of Education, Pender Makin, speak in a state-wide conference call, I believe we must now prepare for the eventuality that schools may not reopen this year. For our part, we are continuing to work on ways to support student learning, and our virtual system is preparing itself to evolve as well. I want to emphasize that this is Emergency Learning, and is not designed to replace in a realistic way, our regular curriculum and support system. We are doing the best we can, as I know you are as well, at home. There are still many questions to answer, but please stay in touch with us and look for future communications," McDonald stated.

Staffany Tribou, a director of curriculum, assessments and instruction, said a survey of students in the district finds at least 79% of students have internet. Some families from Oceanside High School and the South School have not responded to the survey and that percentage is likely to grow, she said.

The RSU 13 administrator said all students have been provided iPads, and families can drive to any of the district's schools and park outside a classroom to get connected to access wireless internet. The internet is password protected, but the school-issued computers will automatically connect.

Students can download their assignments, work on them at home, and then send in by connecting again to the school internet.

Tribou said providing students who do not have internet at home, with a device called MiFi, which allows them to connect to the internet with their device, is tricky since MiFis are now hard to find, particularly in large quantities. She said many are back ordered with shipping not available until May 7 and none are available in stores.

"We await MDOE’s communications to see if they may be able to provide support since they too were collecting data on schools’ connectivity.  We also hope that the governor makes a declaration similar to Rhode Island making all smartphones free hotspots for a period of time," Tribou said referencing a newspaper article.

McDonald said the previously scheduled April break (April 20 to April 24) is still to occur.

"Though we will be providing meals for the children, our teachers will be pausing their schedules as had been previously set by the school calendar," McDonald said in his April 3 message. "I want you all to know, that like the title of our recent video, “We are Here for You.” I sincerely believe that our darkest hour will eventually be our finest hour as we work together to support our children and ourselves in this emergency. Please know that we care deeply about you and your children, and will work tirelessly to find solutions to the difficulties and challenges that are facing us."

As of last week, nearly 3,000 meals had been served to young people in the district.

The two sites for meals to be picked up are Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston and South School in Rockland.

The superintendent said If families are unable to get to either of those sites, they can arrange for deliveries at rsu13.org/OrderLunch where instructions are located.

It takes at least one full day to make sure a delivery location is added. If you have no internet, you can leave a message at 596-2002, or email orderlunch@rsu3.org.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 09, 2020 12:55

God Bless! Stay safe children!

 



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