The BDN is making the most crucial coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact in Maine free for all readers. Click here for all coronavirus stories. You can join others committed to safeguarding this vital public service by purchasing a subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
Maine is advising schools districts across the state to prepare for in-person, remote and blended learning models for the fall, with protocols in place to respond to potential coronavirus cases if they arise, according to a draft plan released by the Maine Department of Education.
The document, released Thursday evening, acknowledges that Maine students may have experienced learning losses due to the prolonged shutdown and advises schools to prepare creative learning practices as well as provide professional development opportunities to teachers over the summer to equip them for the full range of scenarios.
When schools return will be determined by the Department of Education, in cooperation with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Emergency Management Association, the plan says. That decision will be based on local coronavirus trends and whether reopening would be consistent with public health orders, such as capacity limits.
School administrators around the state have been waiting on direction from the state before developing local reopening plans.
To prepare facilities for reopening, schools should make a variety of modifications, including marking six-foot distances in places where students would commonly line up and ensuring that ventilation systems, or open doors and windows, allow outside air to circulate as much as possible, the draft says. Staff should wear face coverings, as should students when possible.
Students should also be advised to stay home if they are experiencing any potential coronavirus symptoms or if they have been around anyone exhibiting those symptoms in the previous 14 days, or have traveled out of state during that time frame. The draft advises a daily “self-check” for staff, students and their family members if needed.
Schools are required to have protocols in place for transportation and disinfection if an individual tests positive for coronavirus. The guidelines call for the immediate notification of health officials, staff and families, while “maintaining confidentiality and other applicable federal and state privacy laws.”
The draft plan acknowledges the issue of learning loss due to the prolonged shutdown this spring, particularly for students with limited access to technology, students with disabilities and English language learners. But it recognizes the possibility that remote learning might be needed in the fall as well.
“Conduct needs assessments for students regarding access to technology, an adequate at home learning space, basic needs such as nutrition, to gauge their abilities and needs to access remote learning,” the document advises.
The guidelines released Thursday are “not intended to be used as requirements or mandates,” the draft says, but should instead be seen as “customizable starting points” for school administrators.
Maine schools began closing on a district-by-district basis after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the state in mid-March, before the governor’s stay-at-home order formally ordered them shut a few weeks later.
Watch: What does returning to normal look like?