BATH — Regional School Unit 1 took a step back from its initial reopening plan and instead introduced a hybrid plan for pre-K through 5th graders. However, parents and teachers still have differing thoughts on what’s best for young students and their families.

RSU 1 includes Bath, Phippsburg, Arrowsic and Woolwich.

In the revised plan, unanimously approved by the board of directors in a virtual meeting Tuesday, students who choose to will begin school on Tuesday, Sept. 8. In the first week, students will be split into two groups and attend school for two days with no remote learning on the days they’re not in school.

From there, pre-K through 5th graders will continue this two-day in-person learning with no remote learning, but 6th through 12th graders will resume distance learning on the days they’re not in school, as originally planned. On Sept. 28, pre-K through 5th graders will begin going to school five days per week.

The board’s updated plan does not affect any family’s ability to choose full-time distance learning for their student if they’re uncomfortable with the district’s in-person learning plan.

According to Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph, 82% of RSU 1 students chose the district’s in-person plan and 13% chose the full-time distance learning option. Five percent of families made another choice, such as homeschooling or sending their child to another school.


Joseph said school administrators pivoted to an ease-in period for younger students after receiving feedback from parents and teachers concerned the district’s original full-time, in-person learning plan would be overwhelming for younger students. She said some teachers also asked for an ease-in period where students would attend school for two days each week to allow them to plan lessons and prepare for the school year ahead.

“We feel it is important for students and staff to focus on transitioning back to in-person learning and adjusting to the new health and safety requirements,” Joseph and RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel wrote in an Aug. 11 letter to families.

Shalon Herson, a teacher at Dike Newell School in Bath, said she feels the district’s initial full-time in-person plan was created “to provide childcare for parents to go back to work, not because it’s what’s best for kids.”

“Five days per week with these strict protocols is developmentally inappropriate for our youngest kids,” said Herson.

Other parents and teachers said the new two-day in-person plan for the first three weeks of school will make the transition easier for students and teachers, but the schedule could send parents scrambling for child care.

“Having students start for two days per week to learn new routines is good for a short period, but now you’re going to have students put in childcare the other days, which may not hold the same social distancing expectations,” said Larissa Costello, a teacher at Dike Newell School who has children in the district. “A lot of childcare options available are not licensed facilities and therefore are not requiring masks or social distancing. This could make it hard for children to learn routines for school.”


“It puts these parents and teachers in a hard spot to adjust and find more childcare for their children,” said Costello. “This need for childcare is going to be another financial burden for parents who may already be struggling at this time.”

Regardless of how often students are in the classroom, some parents and teachers worry different Department of Education requirements the school has to follow, such as requiring students to wear masks and stay three to six feet apart from one another, will negatively impact the students’ mental health.

“I’m concerned for our young students’ emotional state when they’re unable to play with their peers and must remain 3 feet apart when in the classroom and 6 feet apart on the playground,” said Angela Green, a teacher at Dike Newell School. “Young students typically want to play in close proximity with their peers. This will trigger anxiety around play and create negative peer relationships.”

Steve August, board of directors chairman, said school officials will continue to review the district’s plan and make changes “If at any point we feel students and staff are at risk.”

“Regardless of how we start this school year, change is inevitable,” said August. “We’re subject to a lot of unknowns. We’re looking for a plan that will help guide us through the year, but we’re unable to control all the factors that are going to influence us and guide our actions.”

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