A classroom at Hermon Middle School is shown in this January 2019 photo. Students in Hermon will return to school in person two days a week this fall. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

Hermon students will return to school in person two days a week this fall and learn remotely the rest, adding the 1,300-student school department to the list of school systems pursuing hybrid learning options for the coming fall semester.

Hermon’s school buildings will be at 50 percent capacity on each of the four days students will occupy them. The school department will divide students into two groups, with each group attending school on alternating days with state-prescribed safety protocols like masks and social distancing in place.

Students will either attend Tuesday and Thursday or Wednesday and Friday, with the school district using Monday to deep-clean buildings and provide students support with online learning.

“We looked at our space, and there’s no way we can practice social distancing and have [all students] in there, so that pushed us towards the hybrid model,” said Jim Chasse, the school department’s new superintendent. “If we had large enough classrooms, we would have all students back every day.”

Hermon released its reopening plan last week, with the caveat that the district could make changes to the plan depending on how Maine’s coronavirus situation changes and on how the hybrid plan goes.

Maine school districts were waiting on the state to release county-level health classifications to help them assess the risk of COVID-19 spreading locally before they chose a reopening model. At the end of July, the state released that classification system, and gave all Maine schools a green light to fully reopen for in-person instruction. Still, most districts are likely to settle on some mix of in-person and remote learning this fall. In the Bangor area, the Brewer School Department will also send students back to school in person two days a week.

State officials will revisit the county designations every two weeks, with the first update to that classification expected Friday.

While Hermon won’t begin the school year with any students back in school full time, Chasse said the town will prioritize getting K-2 students back to in-person school full time. However, the classroom space currently available is not adequate when state-required social distancing is taken into account.

“We’re already talking to business owners, trying to be creative on how to find or provide space so that we can get them back first,” Chasse said.

Assuming the reopening plan works well in September, the school department is also hoping at some point to bring students back for in-person learning on Mondays, Chasse said.

When school reopens, Hermon Middle School students will eat lunch in their original cafeteria space, which is also the gym. High school and elementary school students will be served meals in classrooms.

Like most other area high schools, Hermon High students will follow a semester pattern, taking a set of courses in fall and another set in the spring, to minimize transitions between classes.