Maine school districts prepare for 3 potential scenarios to resume learning

The state on Friday will release its first county-by-county categorizations to help school districts determine whether it is safe to reopen for in-person learning.The Maine Department of Education has adopted a three-color coding system.Green means schools may return to in-person learning if specific guidelines set by the state can be implemented. Yellow means schools should adopt a hybrid method of in-person and remote learning. Red means schools should only conduct remote learning.The Sanford School Department, like districts across the state, are preparing for all three scenarios.”I think everyone realizes that in-person instruction would be what everyone desires, and that’s obviously something I think we all want and are working to. The key and the goal is going to be — are we going to be able to do that safely in a way that’s going to have people comfortable with that decision?” Superintendent Matt Nelson said.Sanford is changing its classrooms. Shared desks are spread out. Seating is downsized from three chairs to two per table, and that could be reduced to one. Everyone will be required to wear a mask. “First and foremost be safe but also be a quality learning experience,” Nelson said.Sanford has 3,200 students and 260 teachers across the district. Nelson said the district is exploring additional safety measures, including using government coronavirus aid to pay for air filtration systems.Even if the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention give York County a green categorization, that does not mean schools in Sanford will reopen fully to in-person learning.”We may have a green designation, but it may best for us to do a blended option,” Nelson said.One option is for children to attend school in-person two days a week, while learning remotely the rest of the week. Siblings would attend school in-person on the same days.The district is asking teachers how they feel about coming back. None have said they won’t.”I think there’s concern. I think there’s nervousness,” Nelson said.Nelson said he is keeping all options open to see what will work best for students and staff.

The state on Friday will release its first county-by-county categorizations to help school districts determine whether it is safe to reopen for in-person learning.

The Maine Department of Education has adopted a three-color coding system.

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Green means schools may return to in-person learning if specific guidelines set by the state can be implemented. Yellow means schools should adopt a hybrid method of in-person and remote learning. Red means schools should only conduct remote learning.

The Sanford School Department, like districts across the state, are preparing for all three scenarios.

“I think everyone realizes that in-person instruction would be what everyone desires, and that’s obviously something I think we all want and are working to. The key and the goal is going to be — are we going to be able to do that safely in a way that’s going to have people comfortable with that decision?” Superintendent Matt Nelson said.

Sanford is changing its classrooms. Shared desks are spread out. Seating is downsized from three chairs to two per table, and that could be reduced to one. Everyone will be required to wear a mask.

“First and foremost be safe but also be a quality learning experience,” Nelson said.

Sanford has 3,200 students and 260 teachers across the district. Nelson said the district is exploring additional safety measures, including using government coronavirus aid to pay for air filtration systems.

Even if the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention give York County a green categorization, that does not mean schools in Sanford will reopen fully to in-person learning.

“We may have a green designation, but it may best for us to do a blended option,” Nelson said.

One option is for children to attend school in-person two days a week, while learning remotely the rest of the week. Siblings would attend school in-person on the same days.

The district is asking teachers how they feel about coming back. None have said they won’t.

“I think there’s concern. I think there’s nervousness,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he is keeping all options open to see what will work best for students and staff.