AUBURN — Whether schools reopen in the fall will depend on how safe it is to do so, Assistant Superintendent Michelle McClellan said.

Reopening schools is one of three options under consideration by the district’s Health and Safety Re-entry Steering Committee, McClellan said.

The other options are to continue with remote instruction or to put in place a combination of in-school and online lessons. Schools closed mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Health and safety is the No. 1 concern for us,” McClellan said. “Foremost in our minds is providing a high-quality education that is equitable across the needs of the children in the community.”

The committee also will be responsive to what families want, she said.

A recent survey shows that parents are “very interested” in seeing that schools reopen in a safe way, McClellan said.

She said parents also reported that their children had a “high degree of contact” with teachers during the spring.

Teachers responding to the survey are interested in professional development to make remote instruction more successful for more students.

“We’re getting fabulous feedback with many positive experiences being identified,” McClellan said. “We want to celebrate what worked and build on that, while also looking at areas that were problematic and challenging for families and students and educators.”

One challenge has been keeping remote learners engaged in schoolwork, she said.

“Teachers want 100%,” she said. “There are so many factors in homes and families that made it challenging and difficult sometimes.”

Parents may have been trying to work at home while multiple children were trying to do schoolwork online, she said, adding that “issues around COVID were causing stress in families and made it difficult for students to engage. It was a social/emotional concern.”

If schools do reopen in the fall, Auburn will follow Maine Department of Education guidelines, such as social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitizing, she said.

Athletic training will be offered during the summer, she said.

“We really want to give students the opportunity to participate in the things they love and get outdoors and moving,” McClellan said.

Athletic Director Todd Sampson said the district will follow Maine Principals’ Association guidelines for summer programming.

“This is a very slow, gradual process as we understand many of our student athletes have not been very active since March,” Sampson said.

He said the next six weeks would be used to build fitness levels so students can participate safely in fall sports, scheduled to begin Aug. 17.


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