REGION — As Regional School Unit 9 schools prepare for a hybrid opening on September 8, parents are making the difficult decision to either send their children in-person instruction for half the week or opt for a full remote school year.

Wilton resident Gwendolyn Doak made the decision to keep her six-year-old son home for first grade this year due to her husband’s immune compromised condition.

“We feel like, even though I feel fairly inadequate being a teacher’s assistant, at least for my son, I feel like its the safest choice to make,” Doak said in a phone interview with the sound of her son, Shaun playing in the background. 

Doak mentioned several times that she was aware that not all families could make the same decision to go fully remote due to economic circumstances.

Gwendolyn Doak’s six year old son Shaun will enter first grade remotely. She said that luckily, Shaun actually enjoys using digital modalities and even hosted his own Zoom birthday party recently. Photo Courtesy of Gwendolyn Doak

“I really support public schools, I volunteered prior to this at Cushing for their Pre-K and that kind of thing, but I feel as though it’s a kind of thing where our family actually has that option, and I know that not all of our frontline workers, families do,” Doak said. “And if we can help to decrease the numbers that are in the schools, that will ease the burden on the administrators, teachers, staff to monitor adequately the other children.

While RSU 9 was still contemplating a full return of in-person instruction for prekindergarten through eighth grade, Farmington resident Joni James gave her son the freedom to make a decision about returning to school.


“He didn’t like the idea of having to be in a classroom all day and having to wear a mask,” James said in a phone interview after iterating that her family were proponents of face coverings.

“But to ask them to sit through six and a half hours of school everyday with a mask on, it’s just a lot to ask and it’s not something we’d like to do ourselves,” James said. “And so that’s why we ultimately let the decision be made by Danny because he’s the one who is going to have to follow through with it.”

Now that RSU 9 has announced a hybrid model for all schools, James’ son will most likely attend the half week schedule of in-person classes. James also has a daughter who attends the Foster Career and Technical Education Center, but they are still waiting for the district to release back to school plans for this program.

Many parents at the Zoom community forum on August 6 expressed concerns about the school’s plan for addressing students with special needs. Due to sensory issues, some children have a difficult time keeping their masks on for long periods of time.

Superintendent Meserve told parents that exceptions would be made for students with health and behavioral issues and that face shields instead of masks would be permitted.

Families that depend on the school for special needs services are still waiting for the district to release a plan for the upcoming school year.


“Some of our students are in programs that require them to be present to actually access an education,” Meserve said at the August 4 school board meeting. “For those students, we are talking about a full return.”

Parents may be looking at alternative ways to conduct remote learning this year by hiring a person to oversee their children’s learning while they are at work. Other families may ask more of childcare centers by sending their kids to daycare with remote learning work packets.

Regardless, all parents will be facing the challenges of remote learning with RSU 9’s hybrid models and most parents seem to agree that ensuring work gets done is a task that requires monitoring.

“For us it was either, I sit down with him for hours so that I make sure he gets the work done, or doesn’t get the work done,” James said. “So that’s another reason why I was really kind of rooting for the hybrid model, it would be nice for him to get a face to face interaction with his teachers and kind of get that encouragement a couple of days a week.”

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