RUMFORD — The Regional School Unit 10 board of directors plans to vote Monday on whether to delay opening schools for a week to be better prepared in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent Deb Alden told directors at a workshop Monday that she and the Western Foothills Educational Association are seeking to switch the start of classes from Sept. 2 to Sept. 8 to give more time to make preparations.

The school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 31 with teacher workshops all that week “to get things done to make sure everybody knows all the protocols that we’ve worked on, all the different things that have to go on to be sure to follow the state guidelines,” Alden said.

The district will offer a full remote learning option, for families, she said. “And there’s a couple reasons for doing that,” she said. They include:

• Students who have a medical problem or an immune deficiency or conditions that their medical professionals or their parents say there’s no way they want them in school.

• People who have real anxiety about returning to school.

• The remote learning structure will be in place in case a vaccine is not ready at the end of this year or if there is another outbreak.

Once families make their choice of in-school learning or the full remote learning option, they would be asked to commit to that model through Oct. 2 before making a change. After that date, changes could be made at the end of the first ranking period, the superintendent said.

All students and staff will be required to wear masks all day in the school buildings and to follow social distancing protocols. In order to build their capacity for mask-wearing, students will have early-release days from school in the first month and a half-day of school Wednesdays.

High school and middle school students will be divided into smaller groups who attend the same classes together and have a combination of in-school and remote learning each week so fewer students are in the buildings at any one time.

Meroby Elementary School Principal Kim Fuller told Alden and directors Monday that elementary students at her school in Mexico will receive a lot of positive reinforcement for wearing their masks.

“A lot of teachers don’t want the community to perceive that we’re going to be nagging at children about masks,” Fuller said. “That is not going to be our approach. We understand this is going to be very difficult.”

During the start of the school year, elementary students will have breaks from mask-wearing every 15 minutes and be allowed to go outside to remove their masks. They will also be eating lunch 6 feet apart without a mask. “So, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to be able to get a break from the masks,” Fuller said.

Rumford Director Travis Palmer told directors he felt there was “still an extreme risk with all of the elementary students in the classroom.” He said he thought the district should find an additional building to separate the student population or use the same type of model as Mountain Valley and Buckfield Junior-Senior high schools in Rumford and Buckfield, respectively, and Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico.

The district also includes Roxbury, Hanover, Sumner and Hartford.

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