LISBON — School in Lisbon will restart Sept. 8, but students must return in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite objections from some parents. The school department is not offering an option for remote learning.

In a survey sent to parents in late June, 20% of parents indicated they would not send their children back to school, regardless of what the district’s reopening plan was, according to Julie Colello-Nichols, the school department’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

There are about 1,280 students attending Lisbon schools.

“I just think there should be a choice,” said Hiedi Lamothe, the parent of a Lisbon High School senior. “You need to accommodate everybody in this situation. The government is giving grants to accommodate schools, why can’t they accommodate the students?”

Lamothe’s son has asthma and requires a medication that affects his immune system. Lamothe also cares for her mother, who has a compromised immune system.

“Our entire household is asthmatic,” Lamothe said, which puts them at greater risk of contracting a more severe case of COVID-19.

Lamothe plans to homeschool her son. However, she said some parents are sending their children back to school because they have no other choice.

“They’re putting parents in a situation to either choose to pay their bills or educate their children,” Lamothe said.

Lindsay Knight also opted to homeschool her seventh-grader after learning Lisbon wouldn’t have a remote learning option.

“By the time Lisbon finally got around to making their decision, it was too late to enroll our daughter in an online program because they are full, so now I have to homeschool her,” Knight said.

Knight lives with her elderly parents. She feels the school had tunnel vision from the start and focused on bringing kids back to school.

“I think they should have taken some responsibility for that decision,” Knight said, and offered resources for parents opting not to send their children back to school.

LISBON’S PLAN

Colello-Nichols said Lisbon’s plan is still in flux, and noted the state education department is updating its guidelines every two weeks.

The first three days of school starting Sept. 8 will be a “soft rollout” so there will only be two grade levels at a school those days, Colello-Nichols said. All grades will attend together on Aug. 11 according to the plan.

Superintendent Richard Green said the school system has small class sizes, so it can space students 3 feet apart more easily than some larger school systems. Some school systems, such as Maine School Administrative District 75, are dividing students into two groups. The first group will attend school Monday and Tuesday and the second on Thursday and Friday with online learning from home the other days.

“But we also can’t do both because we are smaller,” Green said. Asking teachers to teach in-person every day as well as online, “We’d be asking a lot of the staff I think.”

Green said students cannot attend a school outside the district remotely through a superintendent’s agreement, in which two superintendents approve the transfer of a student from one school administrative unit to another. Green said he’s willing to accept students for in-person learning but questions how many school systems have the capacity for additional remote learning.

Colello-Nichols said students have the opportunity to enroll as homeschooled students through the state’s Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education program, which are learning modules aligned to Maine’s Learning Results.

 

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