Friday, April 9, 2021

RSU 14 explores adding in-person instruction days for students

RSU 14 students, teachers, and staff will find out this week
if students in the district will return to in-person instruction
four or five days per week. Under the current hybrid plan, 
they are only attending in-person two days a week because
of the pandemic. The RSU 14 Board of Directors is expected
to make an announcement about it this week.
By Ed Pierce

Students in RSU 14 could soon be back in the classroom two or three additional days a week if school administrators and school board members approve a plan to return in-person instruction four days a week.

Last August, RSU 14 Schools Superintendent Christopher Howell recommended that the school district adopt a hybrid model for the start of the school year for students in Windham and Raymond. Since last September, RSU 14 students have been 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. On days when students are not in school, they have been expected to be following up online with their teachers to the best extent possible.

He said that the foundation of the hybrid proposal was to ensure the safety, equity and accessibility for all Windham and Raymond students.

Along with students, the pandemic has been hard on families, teachers, school staff members and school custodians, who have been putting in long hours because of the associated additional cleaning requirements for schools as a result of COVID-19. School cafeteria workers have also been challenged to provide different scenarios for student lunches, ranging from eating in the classroom to finding larger spaces in the schools for lunchrooms to accommodate social distancing mandates.

Using the hybrid schools plan, Howell said many CDC social distancing mandates were met by reducing the number of students in RSU 14 schools daily.

If the district increases in-person instructional days, Howell said that RSU 14 also is planning to continue to offer students a remote-only learning option if families do not feel comfortable with the proposed in-person plan for the remainder of the school year.

Information posted on the RSU 14 website earlier this week said that parents would need to have children attend school following whatever schedule model is directed by the board.


The information says remote options are possible, however, it is important to understand that any additional remote requests will be set up with online software and not added to the current remote teams. Students currently using remote learning are free to return to classroom instruction, but do not have to make the transition if their families wish to keep using the remote option through the end of the school year.  


“We will work to ensure that all students’ needs are met,” the info reads. “The district will provide transportation for families who are unable to transport.”

A survey was sent out to all students, families, and staff on April 1 to gather information to help the RSU 14 board reach a consensus about how to proceed.


The website information also details that if additional in-person instructional days are approved for RSU 14 schools, building administrators will work with staff to ensure appropriate social distancing guidelines are met and that spaces are conducive to engaged learning. And it further explains that building administrators will work to ensure adequate staff coverage for all classrooms. 


Whether the proposal adopted by the board is for four days of in-person instruction or for five days, the web statement says teachers would have their duty-free lunch and prep time in any of the proposed options.


“We understand that this has been an extraordinarily challenging year for all: staff, students, administrators, and community members. These are difficult decisions. It is important that we maintain a focus on student needs and then respond to challenges that staff are facing as we collaboratively problem solve the myriad of issues that this year has presented,” the statement reads. “Building administrators will work with teachers on a plan to support the transition. Any hourly staff who are asked to work additional hours will be compensated accordingly.”  


It says that the proposed increase to in-person instruction at this time is in response to expressed community needs for children to return to schools for as much in-person instruction as possible while maintaining adherence to social distancing and health/safety guidelines, as well as academic, social, and emotional needs of students.


“As more educators are vaccinated, school districts are examining possible schedule shifts to meet the needs of students and the community,” the web statement reads. “The RSU 14 Board of Directors has been kept abreast of building-level needs and challenges in response to COVID social distancing guidelines throughout the 2020-2021 school year. The RSU 14 Administrative Team would provide necessary updates to the full Board of Directors in response to any of the proposed options. Classroom spacing, furniture needs, social distancing protocols, instructional shifts, social emotional and academic planning, etc. are all being carefully examined and would be presented to the board for their input and consideration, as well. Every decision made by the RSU 14 Board of Directors is made following a thorough review of multiple perspectives. The board appreciates the feedback they’ve received regarding the proposed options to increasing in-person instruction and is reviewing survey data, emails, and other communication/feedback very carefully in order to make a decision.”


The RSU 14 Board of Directors was scheduled to make a final determination about additional in-person instruction days during a meeting on Wednesday evening. 

This article will be updated when information becomes available. < 

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