Schools are closed, but schooling is on.

Educators are using remote learning or “blended learning” — a combination of online and traditional instruction — and districts are framing it to meet the needs of their students.

That means it’s not the same everywhere you look.

In Auburn, students have been using online programs to earn credits since March 30, Superintendent Katy Grondin said Thursday.

Auburn School Superintendent Katy Grondin Sun Journal file photo

“For every elementary grade level, we looked at the threads for reading, writing and math and customized programs to students while still meeting what they need to learn,” she said.

Science and social studies are integrated into those basic subjects, she said.

High and middle school students use Google Classroom, a free web service that allows file-sharing among teachers and students.

iPads have been distributed to K-6 pupils who needed them and the district is working on getting Wi-Fi internet connections to families, Grondin said.

Teachers are mailing materials home or arranging pickups at schools, she said. “We’re trying not to have access be an issue.”

Schools have been closed since March 16 to help limit the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Districts have been asked to prepare to offer distance learning through the end of the school year.

High and middle school students in Auburn can earn credits, but grades will not be issued. They can earn a “pass” or a “not yet,” Grondin said.

She said new material has been offered since March 30, when districts were notified schools would be closed through April and possibly beyond.

New material has not yet been offered in Lewiston and grades will not be issued, Superintendent Todd Finn said.

Lewiston Public Schools Superintendent Todd Finn Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

He has said since the beginning of the closure that Lewiston has unique dynamics: 1,000 students receive special education services, 1,400 are English language learners, more than 64% are economically disadvantaged, and because of the high number of immigrants, 52 languages are spoken in schools.

“The danger in introducing new standards before everyone has access to those standards is a danger to equity,” Finn wrote in a remote learning FAQ. “Equity is a core value in (Lewiston Public Schools).”

He wrote, “We need to very clear — unless and until ALL students have the resources they need to participate in new learning, we (will) focus on enrichment opportunities as a priority.”

Learning menus for each grade level and links to educational websites have been available on the district’s website since March 16, Chief Academic Officer Karen Paquette wrote in an email.

“It has been our mission to get laptops to students so they would be able to connect with their teachers as well as access any learning opportunities available to them,” Paquette wrote.

Lewiston high and middle school students have access to Edgenuity, an online learning platform, she said. Elementary school students will have access to the platform likely by the week of May 4, Paquette said.

Teachers and students are engaged in blended learning, Finn said.

“Done well, students will master choice of path, pace, people and place,” he said. “They become agents of their own learning while guided by a teacher.”

Students in Lisbon and SAD 17 in the Oxford Hills also are not being offered new material or new standards, and they are not being graded on their distance-learning work.

“Getting hold of some families has been a challenge,” Lisbon Superintendent Richard Green said Monday. “Some we’ve had very limited contact with and some we haven’t been able to reach.”

Unless all are on board, the district cannot offer an equitable education, he said.

Laptops and materials have been sent home to students, and staff is working on setting up meetings through Zoom, a videoconferencing platform, Green said.

The focus has been 75% on the social and emotional well-being of students, he said.

“Providing meals and checking in on kids to see if they’re all right has been our priority,” he said.

He said the district could offer new instructional material once its remote learning plan is updated and he knows for sure schools will not reopen before the end of the academic year.

“The community has told us to hold off until then,” Green said.

In SAD 17, the sprawling eight-town district based in Paris, laptops have been distributed to students in grades five through 12, Curriculum Director Heather Manchester said Monday.

“We’ve got a range of things happening because this district is big and very diverse,” she said. “We are offering both online instruction, and paper packets for students who do not have internet.”

The district does not have enough computer devices for kindergarten through grade four students, so teachers are using social media apps to connect with them, Manchester said.

No new standards are being offered, she said.

“It’s more like practice, remediation and enrichment,” she said.

Unless 100% of students can participate, offering new instruction would not be equitable, she said.

The district is in the process of determining how credits will be awarded at the end of the school year, she said, but that likely will not include new grades. Seniors will graduate, Manchester said. The district is working on determining who needs extra time or extra support.

“Our motto is ‘do no harm,’” she said. Kids will get what they need. No student’s grades will be  affected by COVID-19.

“We’re really trying to focus on engaging kids and maintaining their relationships with teachers,” she said.

In the Mt. Blue Regional School District based in Farmington, another sprawling unit with ten towns, a plan for grading is still in the works, Superintendent Tina Meserve wrote Sunday in an email.

Mt. Blue Regional School District Superintendent Tina Meserve Nicole Carter/Franklin Journal

“We are providing paper/pencil/book materials for those who need it or want it at all grade levels,” she wrote.

Teachers are using Google Classroom to post work for students in grades six through 12, holding Zoom meetings, creating video lessons, virtual field trips and “safe” labs for chemistry and physics, Meserve said.

During the first two weeks of the school shutdown, teachers reviewed materials and offered makeup work, she said. They now are providing “a range of material and teaching that material in a variety of ways.”

SAD 52 Superintendent Kimberly Brandt could not be reached, but according to a letter to the community on the district’s website, remote learning activities will continue for all students. The district is based in Turner.

“We understand that each household’s circumstances are unique,” Brandt wrote. “When it comes to remote learning, all we ask is that you do the best that you can and make the decisions that are best for your family. Please understand that it is our intent to make sure that students will be held harmless when it comes to grading and grade promotion because of this national pandemic.”

Scores for grades seven through 12 students are frozen to where they were March 16, Brandt wrote.

“During the school closure, there should be no scores entered into PowerSchool that would negatively impact a student’s course score,” she wrote.

Students will be allowed to improve their grades and can earn a “pass” or “fail” on semester-long classes. Instructors will develop expectations for completing courses.


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