The percentage of RSU 12 students attending school in person has risen from 82% at the beginning of the school year to 90%, according to Superintendent Howard Tuttle.
Tuttle reported at the RSU 12 school board’s Thursday, Jan. 14 meeting that 106 students are continuing to learn remotely, compared to 179 at the beginning of the year.
When school started in September, RSU 12 asked families to choose whether their students would return to school in person or remotely, and to stick with their choice through Jan. 1.
RSU 12 provides online learning primarily through the MobyMax program, according to Tuttle. Teachers have Zoom meetings with students who need help and students receive paper homework packets.
“A lot of people are feeling safe to come back, which is great,” Tuttle said. “Because of this, we do have teachers out there who don’t have any remote learners at all.”
Whitefield Elementary School Principal Mark Deblois wrote in his school report that RSU 12’s approach is “kids first” and prioritizes the quality of learning. The report included a letter Deblois wrote for a recent Whitefield Elementary newsletter, in which he said that several families have moved outside the district but asked to continue sending their kids to Whitefield Elementary because it consistently offers five days of in-person education per week.
“I am proud to be a part of this district, a district that has been so forthright in identifying the most impactful educational mode and that stands by our commitment to making the most of this gift each and every day,” Deblois wrote.
“It really is a gift that we’ve had our kids in here five days a week,” Tuttle said. “It’s far more than most districts.”
Tuttle reported that the district had an unusually high number of truant students in the past year, due primarily to COVID-19. Most incidents of truancy involved remote learners.
“What we did not expect was that students who typically struggle with attendance, or who struggle with paying attention in school, is if they become remote learners, they just don’t show up at all,” Tuttle said.
Maine truancy laws vary based on grade level. Above sixth grade, a student is truant after 10 days of unexcused absences or seven consecutive days of unexcused absences. For sixth grade and below, a student is truant after seven days of unexcused absences or five consecutive days of unexcused absences.
In RSU 12, a remote learner who is truant must attend school in person instead.
“We’ve pulled in pretty much all of the kids who had truancy issues as remote learners,” Tuttle said. “They do much better in person.”