Waldoboro’s Miller School, Medomak Middle School, and Medomak Valley High School will reopen with a mix of in-person and remote instruction.
RSU 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan hopes to transition to full-time, in-person instruction at those schools by the end of September.
The RSU 40 Board of Directors, on Thursday, Aug. 6, approved a proposal to reopen two of the district’s seven schools with full-time, in-person instruction and to reopen the other five under the hybrid model.
The vote in favor of Nolan’s proposal was 578-367, using the board’s population-based voting formula.
Board member Guy Bourrie, of Washington, moved to support the superintendent’s proposal to reopen schools when they can meet the guidelines in the state’s framework for returning to classroom instruction.
Bourrie’s motion left the particulars of the hybrid model to the administration’s discretion.
The vote followed a presentation from Nolan and administrative staff.
“Right now, Friendship Village School and Prescott Memorial School meet these requirements to open for in-person instruction,” Nolan said. “Our other five schools have not yet done that and them doing so is dependent on desks and chairs we have ordered to swap furniture out.”
Many classrooms at Medomak Middle School and MVHS have tables for students to sit at, which is not conducive to physical distancing, according to Nolan. The new desks will replace the tables and allow for physical distancing within those classrooms.
“I’m hopeful that if we have to start with a hybrid schedule, it won’t be for too long,” Nolan said.
Under the district’s draft plan, the schools under the hybrid model have two options on how to manage in-person instruction throughout the week.
One plan calls for one group to attend school in person Monday and Thursday, while a second group goes Tuesday and Friday. On Wednesday, teachers would make contact with students, focus on group work, and plan upcoming lessons, according to Nolan.
The other option is to have one group attend school in person Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while the other goes Tuesday and Thursday. The next week, the groups would switch.
RSU 40 Assistant Superintendent Christina Wotton said all parents in the district can choose distance learning for their student, regardless of whether the student’s school has returned to full-time, in-person instruction.
Wotton said remote students can resume in-person attendance with five days’ notice to line up bus transportation.
“We did an earlier survey and 20% of parents said they would not send their kids to school. We have to provide some type of learning opportunity,” Wotton said, adding, “The goal is to help students learn anywhere, whether they are at home or at school.”
The board’s meeting, by Google Meet videoconference, took about three hours and drew about 200 participants.
Board Chair Danny Jackson, of Waldoboro, read public comments throughout the meeting. Many were requests for details about the reopening plan, including whether students will have to wear masks and whether they will be able to take breaks from wearing their masks during the school day.
According to Nolan, the district will abide by the state’s framework for returning to classroom instruction and mandate that all staff and students ages 5 and up wear masks. A mask break will be allotted in line with state guidelines.
Nolan said staff members and students, with the help of parents or caregivers, will have to conduct self-checks for symptoms prior to boarding buses or entering school buildings each day.
Matthew Speno, a board member from Union, spoke about the difficulties in preparing for a year of education in uncharted territory.
Speno said he appreciated the district’s efforts to ensure student safety, including the use of electrostatic disinfecting sprayers at each school.
“What our district has done for safety, to ensure we have enough personal protective equipment and electrostatic disinfecting sprayers, is leading the state,” Speno said.
According to RSU 40 Business Manager Karen Pike, the district has ordered 3,500 masks and 1,000 pairs of rubber gloves.
RSU 40 Director of Technology Linda Trenholm said the district is working to ensure 1-to-1 access to electronic devices.
“Our high school and middle school has had 1-to-1 devices, but our elementary schools have used shared carts. We are working, for safety reasons, to have 1-to-1 devices at our elementary schools too,” Trenholm said.
MVHS student Owen Weber, a student representative to the board, asked how the district would handle students who refuse to comply with mask requirements.
“We are always going to work to educate people first,” Nolan said. “If someone is not willing to participate, then we can’t really allow them to attend in person.”
Nolan said the district will track attendance for both in-person and remote instruction for the upcoming school year.
The district’s full reopening plan can be found at sites.google.com/msad40.org/reopening-plan/home.