FARMINGTON — Superintendent Tina Meserve presented the Regional School Unit 9 board of directors with proposed models Tuesday night for returning students to school Aug. 31.

The models included a hybrid plan that would combine in-person instruction with remote learning and a full-return model. 

The option for remote learning would be available to families who are uncomfortable with sending their children back to school. 

“We would like to offer a remote-learning option to any family that chooses it,” Meserve said during the Zoom meeting. “We don’t want to force families to send their child back to school if they don’t feel comfortable with the plan that we have in place, or if they just don’t feel comfortable with children being around other students and staff.”

If families choose the remote-learning option, they must commit to that model for a full academic quarter to avoid classroom disruptions, according to Meserve, who also said the district would revert to a fully remote model if an outbreak of coronavirus were to occur.

The full-return model is only a possibility for prekindergarten through eighth grade. Mt. Blue High School does not have the space capacity for its entire student body and staff to be present and practice the social-distancing guidelines issued by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the state Department of Education.

The full-return model requires all students wear masks and maintain a distance of 3 feet from their peers and 6 feet from teachers. All staff would be required to wear face coverings.

“The CDC recommendation for schools is 3 feet,” Meserve said, “and that is with the understanding that everybody has a mask on.”

Parents would be responsible for screening their children for coronavirus symptoms prior to each school day. There would be staggered drop-off and pickup times for students. An isolation room would be designated at every school for students displaying symptoms.

The hybrid model allows for 50% of students to be at schools at the same time, and includes two days of in-person learning and three days of remote learning.

Students would be organized into one of two cohorts, based on their last name. These two groups would have designated in-person instruction days, with Fridays being remote-learning days for everyone.

There may be exceptions to these models for students with special needs and those at the Foster Career and Technical Education Center who need in-person instruction. The district is still developing models for programs that demand more-individualized instruction.

“Some of our students that are in programs that require them to be present to actually access an education,” Meserve said. “For those students, we are talking about a full return.”

Through the CARES Act and other federal funding, RSU 9 has received $2.8 million to help fund the reopening process, hire temporary staff and buy personal protective equipment, or PPE. The district has already bought masks and face shields for every student and staff member.

A community forum via Zoom has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday for residents to ask questions and provide feedback to the proposed models. The link to the forum is available on the district’s website at www.mtbluersd.org.

The board is expected to decide which model schools will follow at its next meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

In other matters, the RSU 9 board voted to have the district join a class-action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that are alleged to have contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Litigation will most likely last two to three years, but at no cost to the district, according to officials.

The board also approved revisions to school trip and graduation policies.

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