Scarborough Middle School, like other public schools in Scarborough, is closed for the remainder of the school year. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH — On April 8, the Scarborough school superintendent informed the public that schools would be closed through the end of the school year.

In a letter to the community, he said distance learning would be extended into June and students would not be returning to the classrooms for the 2019-2020 school year.

In response to the novel coronavirus, on Tuesday, April 7, Commissioner of Education Pender Makin, with the support of Governor Janet Mills, made the recommendation to Maine schools to extend their remote learning plans until the end of the current school year.

“Based on the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education’s statement last evening,” Superintendent of Schools Sanford Prince wrote, “we have made the difficult decision to extend distance learning through the end of the school year in June.

“Please know that this decision has not been taken lightly,” he said. “In the coming days and weeks, we will be communicating more specific details with you.”

“School classrooms are closed, but schools are not,” Commissioner Makin said in an April 9 release. “The dedicated educators and staff are still providing educational continuity, nutrition services, and even emotional support and counseling services through remote/distance learning and teleservices. During this state of emergency, many familiar systems and supports in our society have been upended, leaving people feeling disoriented. Maine’s schools are providing deeply necessary connections, reliable services, and are — in fact — holding the fabric of our communities together.”

Deciding to close school buildings was a difficult decision, she said, made only after consultation with the experts, including guidance from the national and local CDC. It is a decision that has been made by many other school districts around the state and across the country as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll across many facets of society not only in the U.S. but around the world.

School closure “is difficult on everyone, but necessary to protect the health and safety of students, school staff, and community members,” Makin said.

Scarborough public schools first closed March 16. Initially schools were to be closed through March 27, then they were to reopen April 27, until the latest announcement that distance learning is extended for the entire school year.

Since the day of the initial closure, Prince said, “everyone in our organization has been working tirelessly to stay connected and to craft thoughtful distance learning experiences for our students,” Prince said.” We have continued to modify our response along the way, as we have received new information. Adjustments have been made as needed, always with the safety of everyone being our primary consideration.”

Makin said she announced her recommendation now in order to give families and schools time to plan and provide alternative ways to celebrate and conduct end-of-year events.

Prince said school staff will be working to determine how to deal with normal school traditions.

Some things won’t be the same. On Thursday, April 9 the Maine Principals’ Association announced that spring high school sports have been canceled this year.

However, Prince said staff is working to figure out ways to plan other year end school events.

“It is also recognized at this time that there are many critical rituals and events tied in to the end of the school year that many of you are wondering about,” Prince said. “We would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to let you know that we will be developing a thoughtful plan of action that takes into account the value that these events have.”

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