Friday, September 4, 2020

Windham, Raymond students and teachers return to classes Wednesday

RSU 14 school buses have been cleaned and
prepared in advance of students returning
to in-person instruction under a hybrid model
at the district's six schools starting on
Wednesday. RSU 14 has about 3,200 students
 and 750 teachers and staff members.
suAdd caption
By Ed Pierce
On Wednesday thousands of students in Windham and Raymond will return to classes under a hybrid schedule while adhering to guidelines put forward last month by the Maine Department of Education and Maine Center for Disease Control in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The framework for students returning to in-person instruction mandated meeting six requirements including symptom screening at home before the school day; physical distancing at school; wearing masks and face coverings; hand hygiene and sanitizing; use of personal protective equipment by teachers and school staff members; and establishing a policy of home isolation for staff and students until they recover from a COVID-19 diagnosis.   
Last month RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell recommended that the school district adopt a hybrid model for the start of the school year. To operate under a hybrid model, Windham and Raymond students would be grouped alphabetically with last names from A to K having in-person classes in school on Mondays and Wednesdays and those with last names from L to Z attending in-person classes in school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When RSU 14 students are not in school, they will be following up online with their teachers to the best extent possible.
“I am proud of the work that has been completed by RSU 14 staff and administrators over the past couple of months,” Howell said. “In a short period of time, they have worked diligently to redefine school programs that meet the safety guidelines that have been established by the Maine CDC and the Maine Department of Education.” help area families screen for possible COVID-19 symptoms, RSU 14 has made available a pre-screening tool identifying questions to be asked of children each morning. 
It’s been a summer like no other for RSU 14 administrators and Howell, who have been examining how to best transition students back to in-person instruction after spending much of the spring months receiving instruction from teachers online using Zoom after the pandemic struck.
“Our challenges mean every student and every staff member has to wear a mask,” Howell said. “We’ve also had to undertake the challenge of managing and ensuring that the district has a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment ready and available. Like everyone else this summer, we’ve been thinking about what school will be like this fall and will students be safe.”
RSU 14 has 3,200 students and 750 staff members at six schools, including Windham High School. Windham Middle School, Jordan-Small Middle School, Windham Primary School, Manchester School and Raymond Elementary School.
As of Sept. 1, Maine had the second-lowest total of COVID-19 cumulative cases in the nation at 340 per 100,000 people and 4,548 since the pandemic began. In the final week of August, Maine also showed the 16th smallest increase overall among U.S. states for the seven-day period of Aug. 24 to Aug. 31 at 3.9 percent.
To come up with a plan to safely get students back into the classroom, RSU 14 administrators had to work around a number of limitations that restricted the number of students allowed on school buses to 26 and no more than 50 students allowed in a group together at one time. They also had to comply with social distancing requirements for desks in classrooms, create new medical isolation rooms at each school, install new plexiglass protective barriers in schools, upgrade air filtration systems at each school, and ensure frequent cleaning of physical surfaces throughout the schools.
“We recognize kids can’t spend all day in the classroom,” Howell said. “We’ve also looked carefully at classroom space to keep students 3 to 6 feet apart and only 10 students in a classroom.”
For student and families choosing to opt out of in-person instruction because of COVID-19 concerns, the district will provide distance learning and laptops for students. Technology sessions are available for parents and students to help them navigate the distance learning process.
“RSU 14 continues to work to provide a mix of hybrid, distance, and multi day programs for our students.  The staffing of all of the positions that are required for a mix of programs is monumental,” Howell said. “Through some creative problem solving and flexibility, we will be able to offer a variety of school attendance options for families in our district.” <  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.