School departments in Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach are in the process of figuring out how they’ll offer classes this fall – and for many of them, a hybrid model is likely. Journal Tribune file photo

Area school districts are nearing decisions on how they plan to offer classes this fall, and some of them say a hybrid model, with a blend of  in-school classes and some remote learning, is in the offing.

Biddeford School Superintendent Jeremy Ray said the School Committee will likely take a vote on the plan at their next meeting.

In a memo issued Monday, Aug. 3, Ray noted that the state plans to update its Maine Health Advisory System every two weeks, and that the “green designation” currently in effect for all of Maine’s 16 counties could change to designations less favorable in the next three updates.

While some may believe “green” means school as usual, Ray pointed out that is not the case.

A green designation simply means that schools “may consider in-person instruction … (and) may need to use hybrid instruction models if there is insufficient capacity or other factors (facilities, staffing, geography/transportation, etc.) that may prevent full implementation of the health and safety requirements,” Ray said, quoting from state guidelines.

He stressed that the return to school in Biddeford, will be “hybrid in nature, at least for the upper grades.”

The school department was to host an online community forum on Monday, Aug. 3.

Saco Superintendent Dominic DePatsy said the state rules for social distancing will prohibit Saco schools from welcoming all students back on campus at once — which barring a rule change will mean a hybrid model of in-classroom and remote learning in the fall. He said he and the staff will recommend the hybrid plan to the Saco School Committee, which is expected to take a vote on that at their Aug. 12 meeting.

Under the current plan, some Saco students will attend in-school classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, others on Thursdays and Fridays. DePatsy said principals took into account individual student instructional needs, siblings in the same schools and siblings across the district when sorting out the details.

“Every effort has been made to assign siblings to the same cohort, however, there may have been some discrepancies based on instructional/programmatic needs,” DePatsy wrote in a letter to parents. “We also tried our best to accommodate all requests, but as you can imagine with almost 2,000 children that was not a possible task to accomplish.”

At Thornton Academy, which serves as the public high school for Saco, Headmaster Rene Menard said a hybrid model would be used, and in an update to parents on Friday, July 31, said the school was in the process of finalizing reopening details for its website.

At RSU 23, Superintendent John Suttie in an memo to families said there would be a video and slideshow released Friday, Aug. 7 that outlines the return-to-school plan, and forums set for the following week.

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