TOPSHAM — As Maine School Administrative District 75 continues to plan for the limited reopening of schools on Aug. 31, some parents and teachers still question the safety of the reopening schools during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to a draft plan released July 21, parents will have two options: Send their children to school with a phased reentry and initial hybrid education model, or keep their children home for remote-only teaching for at least the first trimester or semester.

Students will be split into two groups that will attend school on different days.

The idea of going back to school during the pandemic triggered nightmares for Mt. Ararat High School social studies teacher Bree Candland. She questions if high school students will physically distance and wear masks as required in the draft reopening plan.

She said a dozen graduates refused to wear face masks during the June ceremony at the Topsham Fairgrounds. Many students have been attending events over the summer without masks, she said.

“Anybody who has ever worked with children understands that they want to be very, very close together all the time, and that’s very wonderful,” Candland said, “but translating that to a reality where that’s not acceptable because we have to follow guidelines, it’s a realistic concern I have about keeping us all safe.”


Incoming senior Elizabeth Lamoreau agreed that adhering to mask requirements may be a problem for students. She said she’d prefer not to wear a mask at school all day. And if there are too many restrictive protocols to follow, she’d rather stay home and learn online.

“Kids aren’t going to follow it and no one is going to wear their mask correctly, and students aren’t going to want to do that,” she said.

Adding to that stress, she will attend high school in a brand new building she’s never seen.

“I don’t know how they’re going to greet 500 kids and show us the school,” she said. “It’s going to be totally different as it is.”

Lamoreau said she likes the idea of returning to school with a combination of in-classroom and remote learning, as long as there is a set schedule and routine.

According to the draft reopening plan, after week four, the district aims to reopen to full in-person learning if the Maine Department of Education determines there is a low risk of spreading COVID-19.


Mt. Ararat Middle School Patricia Cherry, who is also the mother of a newborn and toddler, urged the school board Thursday to slow down the push for the full reopening of schools.

“Children are not immune to this illness and even those who do not come down with symptoms can spread it quickly,” she said. “As far as adults, it is not only going to affect 65 or older teachers with diabetes.”

In Sagadahoc County, encompassing three of the four towns in MSAD 75, there have been 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths as of Friday, according to the Maine CDC. Statewide, there had been 3,599 confirmed cases and 124 deaths.

“Tying to go back on a two-day a week basis is almost worse than nothing,” said Josh Spooner of Topsham, who called on the board to fully reopen schools. “I think it’s time for the school board to put our kids back in a situation when they can be taught; where they can learn.”

Candland worries about the realities of teaching during a pandemic. For example, she’d wear a mask and face shield while teaching and with students spaced out in a classroom, they won’t hear her, Candland said. Nor could she approach students at their desks.

“I hope that everyone is managing their expectations for what in-person instruction is going to look like,” she said.

Superintendent Shawn Chabot said Thursday most families haven’t chosen which back-to-school option yet for students because they are waiting to see what plan the school board approves Aug. 13.

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