PARIS — Last week SAD 17 administrators hosted two Zoom conferences for parents to have specific questions and concerns addressed. At that time more than 20% of students had not been registered for in-class or distance learning. Many decisions and policies have to be finalized. It is likely that the larger, multi-community schools will need to institute a plan for hybrid to comply with Maine Department of Education requirements for reopening.

In-school

Social distancing and how it will be managed was at the top of parents’ lists, including requirements for facial coverings. Administrators are in the process of hiring extra employees to assist staff during recess, lunch breaks and other instances where students congregate outside of classrooms. For younger grades where education includes games and other developmental activities educators are devising new ways to utilize both outdoor and indoor spaces.

Kids in masks can be within three feet of each other when wearing facial coverings and six feet when outdoors or if not wearing a mask. Adults must maintain six feet under all conditions.

Teachers will be able to provide brief breaks from mask-wearing during class at different intervals during the day. Educators are urging parents to help their children practice mask-wearing before school starts. Children will be able to bring their own masks to schools, and the more individual and easy-to-identify they are the better. Gators and buffs will be allowed as long as the fit properly and snugly.

“We will be addressing the tolerance of mask wearing in plans as we do with other behavioral challenges,” Special Education Director Jan Neureuther assured parents. “We will work with all students to help them be successful.”

Plexi-glass shields will be installed at some school locations. Principals of their respective schools are determining how and where desk shields will be used for instruction.

Sharing supplies

Many parents in the Zoom sessions requested clarification on how supplies would be distributed and if they would be shared, especially in the elementary grades. Parents asked if they would receive a list of supplies and whether their children could bring their own, including technology, so only they would handle them.

Parents also wanted to know about backpacks for kids to transport their supplies and books.

Curriculum Director Heather Manchester indicated that final decisions regarding backpacks and lunchboxes are decisions are still under consideration.

“Right now our thinking is that we do not want kids carrying things right on the bus,” Manchester said.  “If that is the case, we will buy supplies for all children.”

One parent wanted to know how, if students can’t bring their own supplies, it could be guaranteed that they will not be using items already handled by someone else that day before and how would things like crayons be sanitized.

Manchester replied that students will have individual supply sets for their own use assigned and that the administration is working on strategies to clean materials. With children being educated in “pods” there will be less handling of materials, such as blocks, and they will be sanitized regularly.

Special classes like phys ed, art and music will be included in curriculums. PE will be done outside whenever practical. Art will be taught in classroom only. For art and music kids within their pods with have their own “kit” of materials.

Staff will announce changes to music class shortly, as modifications need to be made about singing, which carries a higher risk of transmission.

One change parents should expect is that students will likely not have folders to carry messages and assignments back and forth from school. Instead, administrators will communicate with parents electronically using software apps and programs.

Transportation

Many parents asked about how bus transportation will work. Students will board the bus and be seated from the back to the front. When getting off the bus exiting will be done from the front rows to the back. There will be exceptions for younger students on seating. Each student will have an assigned seat on the bus. Students from the same family or boarding location will sit together.

Appropriate social distance spacing for each bus is being developed. Scheduling is likely to look different this year. Fewer students will use bus transportation but safety precautions will affect timing.

Administrators will also determine how to manage situations where students whose parents have registered for family transportation may need occasional support.

Remote Learning

SAD 17 will provide technology to students according to what their remote-learning registrations indicated for needs. Some parents questioned if allowances for differing technology at home (i.e. laptops/desktops vs. electronic devices and software programs) are being addressed. The district will send parents supplies lists specific to remote learning.

Parents with students in remote learning will be expected to communicate with their children’s individual teachers what they will require for accommodations for students from one household in different grades for screen and class time.

Some parents with young children expressed concern with the amount of time students will be expected to spend with online screen time, hoping that remote learning will include other sense/sensory type activities for kids to participate in.

Currently, families have to opt for either in-person or remote learning. Registrations will be used to determine how the district will be able to comply with the six requirements mandated by the Maine DOE. It is likely that the smaller community schools will be able to fully reopen. It is expected that the middle and high schools, which have much higher student populations, will need to adjust to a hybrid process that limits the number of days students can physically spend at school.

Manchester said that remote students will be given a regular schedule. All classes will be offered the same as they have in the past, including Advanced Placement. However, students should expect to be assigned to a remote teacher that will not teach the same class in-person.

Special Education

“We will be holding IEP meetings as a team to make decisions regarding each child’s programming,” Special Education Director Jan Neureuther explained to parents on the Zoom session. She asked that they email her directly to discuss or schedule meetings regarding their individual child’s programming and schedule.

“We will develop remote learning plans for children as a team, as each child’s needs are unique,” she said. “District-wide procedures for special education services for both in-school and remote are in the process of being developed now that student registrations have been largely completed.”

Neuruether stressed that special education students have been included in the Maine DOE’s assessment of most educationally impacted and will be given priority for in-person instruction. Parents selecting remote education for their children, learning programs will be based on the child’s needs. IEP meetings will be held with teams in-person if requested after school hours or through Zoom, according to parents’ preferences.

Decisions for managing 504 cases such as asthma, food allergies and other needs will be made on an individual basis.

Athletics

The Maine Principals’ Association announced in July that schedules for practices and games have delayed but plans are being made for shorter adjusted seasons. Final decisions are pending.

Students registering for remote learning will be eligible to participate in after-school sports.

 


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