It’s been a troubling question for Augusta, Maine-area students, parents, and educators since COVID-19 first struck: How will we safely go back to school? Now the answers—which are ALWAYS tentative during this pandemic—are becoming clearer. Here’s what we know to date:
Over the summer, Governor Mills’ administration and the Maine CDC closely monitored the spread of COVID-19 throughout Maine. Now, due to Maine’s relative success in containing the pandemic (currently second-best in the U.S.), the Mills administration has declared it is giving the “green light” to schools in every county to reopen, as long as they follow specific health protocols and restrictions.
Specific Back to School Plan Developed by Augusta Board of Education
The Augusta Board of Education recently voted to move the first day of school back to Tuesday, September 8. It also announced its specific, still-developing back to school plan, based on the Maine Department of Education’s “Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction.” As the DOE carefully notes, its plan is likely to evolve as additional information about the pandemic becomes known. As of now, the essential components of the plan are:
· Symptom screening at home for all staff and students before coming to school;
· Physical distancing among everyone in the school;
· Masks/face coverings to be worn by all adults in the school, including educators and staff, and by all students ages five and older;
· Hand hygiene training for all students and staff;
· PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for all school nurses and/or any staff supporting students in close proximity;
· Home isolation for all sick staff members and students until they meet criteria for returning to school.
Augusta’s “Hybrid” Plan Splits Students into Two Groups
The Board’s plan also calls for students to be split into two groups, to reduce the number of students in school buildings and thus better allow for social-distancing. The plan is also a “hybrid,” based on both in-person school attendance and remote-learning at home.
Each week, 50 percent of students will be in school on Monday and Thursday, and 50 percent on Tuesday and Friday. Educators will prepare instructional materials on Wednesdays. The school district is also seeking to add 25 “permanent” substitute teachers to help address any needs for more staff.
Superintendent Addresses Specific Needs of Kindergarten/First Grade
School Superintendent James Anastasio told the Kennebec Journal that an exception to the two-days-a-week schedule may be having kindergarten and first-grade students attend school four days a week. He said the district may also seek more classroom space to assist with social distancing, with one option being to lease part of the city-owned Buker Community Center.
In addition to its magical summer and beautiful fall, the Augusta, Maine, area offers a wonderful way of life year-round. If you need assistance buying or selling a home here, we invite you to contact us today.