GORHAM — High school students will be learning from home and all other students will be in classrooms two days a week when school resumes Sept. 8 under a plan the School Committee approved last week.

Concerns about overcrowding and its impact on social distancing at the high school led the School Committee to approve 5-2, with Darryl Wright and Phil Gagnon opposed, the “red” plan for those students. It unanimously approved the hybrid option for all other schools, allowing half of the students in each building at a time.

“The designation for the high school could absolutely change,” School Committee Chairman Stewart McCallister said Tuesday in an email to the American Journal.

The School Committee is expected to discuss the matter this week and possibly at a special meeting next week.

Under the plan, high school students could participate in sports and other after school activities if they wear masks, maintain social distancing and follow other state guidelines.

The remote learning decision for the high school drew some fire this week from Town Councilor Benjamin Hartwell.

“It appears that the School Committee made its decision with incomplete information available. It also appears decisions were made based on 6-foot distancing when the Maine Department of Education’s ‘Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction’ clearly says:
‘Maintaining 3 feet of distance is acceptable between and among students when combined with the other measures outlined in this list of safety requirements,'” Hartwell said Tuesday in an email to the American Journal.

“I am committed to working with the Town Council and the School Committee to provide available space and expand the high school campus, even if that means relocating some municipal offices,” Hartwell said. “It troubles me that this is the last option the School Committee leadership and the superintendent were willing to consider.”

The high school and municipal center are located on the same town property.

McCallister said concerns about space in some high school classrooms and “whether or not we could achieve “appropriate social distancing under a hybrid model was the driving force behind this decision.

Those who supported the high school decision recognized it is not ideal for the long term, he said, and the School Committee and district leadership teams are continuing to work on a hybrid plan for the high school.

“The safety of everyone who enters our buildings is important and this decision was made with the intent to work on a way to safely return them to school while still adhering to guidelines given to us by the Maine CDC and DOE regarding in-person instruction during this pandemic,” McCallister said.

He said the committee has requested additional details about a hybrid plan at the high school and will work with Superintendent Heather Perry and district leadership to identify ways that would lead to in-person instruction for all students.

McCallister expected more details at the School Committee meeting Aug. 12 after the American Journal deadline.

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