CAPE ELIZABETH — The school board approved a recommended draft plan for the return to Cape Elizabeth Public Schools in the fall, which may see changes, depending on the spread of COVID-19 in Maine.

On July 28, Superintendent Donna Wolfrom brought forward recommendations that the District Planning Team and Cape Elizabeth Administrative Team created. The model for returning to school is also based off of guidance from the Maine CDC and Maine Department of Education, she said.

The Maine Department of Education released a three-level model on July 21 that gave an outline for how school can continue, depending on how severe the spread of the virus is in each county, Wolfrom said. The model is broken down into three colors, red, yellow, and green.

Red would mean a high risk of COVID-19 in a specific county, so schools would need to resume remote learning, Wolfrom said. Yellow means that there is an elevated risk, but a mix of in-person and remote learning may continue.

Green allows for 100 percent in-person learning to continue, as there would be a low risk of the virus spreading, but school administrative units may opt for a hybrid model, Wolfrom said.

Every two weeks, the Department of Education will release updates on what level each county is in, Wolfrom said. The school board is expected to vote on how the year will begin on Tuesday in a Special Business Meeting. The calendar is also on the agenda on Tuesday.

Students who cannot return to in-person instruction will be offered a remote-only option for the fall semester, she said. The continuation of remote learning will be updated on a semester-by-semester basis in order to ensure staff can accommodate the needs of every student.

“If we were in yellow, we’d be offering a remote learning situation for a period of time in order to meet the needs of high-risk families and students,” Wolfrom said. “We would be offering families this option for at least the first semester, and then we would be reevaluating this option and move forward from there.”

In the hybrid model, students will be divided into two groups: gold and maroon and both groups will attend school two days a week, Wolfrom said. The maroon group will go to school on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the gold group will go on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Groups are divided by names, Wolfrom said, but the planning team acknowledged that not every family member has the same last name.

“By having all students in the same family attend school, we thought this would be easier on families,” she said.

The board also approved changes to the school’s calendar for 2020-2021 that provides staff two extra professional days in August. Added vacation days for Dec. 21 and 22 will give custodians two full weeks to make changes and do a deep cleaning, Wolfrom said.

Students will also need to complete a screening before returning to school, she said. A form parents or guardians will receive must be filled out to promise cooperation.

School principals have been working individually on how their schools’ schedules will be impacted and how staff and students will remain safe.

Cape Elizabeth High School Principal Jeff Shedd said that as the plans may change throughout the year, the high school wants to have an adaptable schedule for each of the three levels. The high school has also worked on making plans so that staff members are not too close to one another, such as when they go to make copies or collect mail in the main office.

“Because we’re going to face a situation where one week we may be in remote learning and then we may have to go into hybrid and then three weeks later we may be able to go into live learning, we decided that a really important consideration was adaptability,” he said. “We should have a schedule that we can, with very minor tweaks, adapt to any of those situations, which, quite frankly, pushed us away from our relatively complex normal day-to-day schedule at the high school, which is a rotating schedule in the mornings and afternoons.”

Troy Eastman, principal of Cape Elizabeth Middle School, echoed Shedd’s concerns about ensuring that staff have enough space, and said that the middle school schedule is much more simplified already, but the school will continue to make changes as the summer continues.

Each of the three levels require students and staff to wear masks while in the building, Wolfrom said. Schools will have masks available.

“It has to be understood that to keep people as safe as possible, students and staff need to wear masks,” she said.

The teams have two priorities for bringing students and staff back to school, Wolfrom said.

“We really want to get our students and staff back to school, but we know we need to get them back to school safely,” she said.

In order to ensure these priorities are met, everyone needs to be in compliance with guidelines, like wearing masks, said Jill Young, Cape Elizabeth Middle School nurse.

“We’re going into this game and we’re the underdogs, and we’re needing to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, and the only way that we have a shot is to follow these guidelines,” she said. “We’re all excited to get back to school. We all want that sense of normal, and we’re going to do the best we can, and that’s why we’ve had this team working hard all summer long.”

The requirements for social distancing has changed, except in the cases of eating meals, Wolfrom said.

Schools are working on having all students eat lunch in their classrooms, but the planning team is working on a way for students to eat while teachers have their contracted 30 minute duty-free lunch, Wolfrom said.

Documents and schedules will be added to students’ Power School accounts within the next couple of weeks, Wolfrom said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: