BRUNSWICK — As surrounding school districts take steps toward relaxing restrictions and phasing in more in-person learning, Brunswick Superintendent Phillip Potenziano has said Brunswick schools will keep a mix of online and in-person education “for the foreseeable future.” 

In a presentation to the school board, Potenziano and Shanna Crofton, director of curriculum, assessment, instruction and professional development, said the schedule and safety precautions will continue as they have been all year.

So far, Brunswick schools have kept cases relatively low. 

As of Friday, there had been four positive coronavirus cases reported within the district’s schools. According to Dr. Alyssa Goodwin, district pediatrician, there has been no evidence of in-school transmission. 

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 151 new cases and two more deaths Sunday, bringing Maine’s seven-day case average to 182.9, its highest yet. Data last updated Nov. 8 shows there have been 78 cases in Brunswick. 

 “We should all be concerned,” Goodwin told the school board. 

She recommended keeping the current schedules, distancing and other safety protocols in place. 

“What we’re doing in our schools is working,” she said. 

Brunswick is somewhat an outlier in its decision to stick with the reopening plan adopted in August

Freeport-area schools last month moved to Superintendent Becky Foley’s “hybrid-plus” plan that brings kindergarten through fifth grade students back in the classroom five days per week. Regional School Unit 1, which includes Bath and surrounding towns, reopened Phippsburg Elementary School to full in-person instruction and is considering doing the same with Woolwich Central School. 

In Topsham, Maine School Administrative District 75 is planning a “feather-in” approach which will bring students back to full-time in increments, starting next month with kindergarten and first grade. 

In Brunswick’s current plan, kids in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade are grouped into two cohorts and attend school two days per week, with the remaining three online.  

Students at the junior high are also grouped into cohorts with the same two-day in-person learning schedule, but instead of the students changing classes, they stay in the same room in “pods” of about 12 students for the full day to help reduce the number of person-to-person interactions for both students and staff. 

In the high school, students are broken into three groups and attend school in-person one day per week. For the other four days, students learn remotely.

All families had the option to learn from home, but were asked to commit to doing so until December break. According to Potenziano, roughly 23% of students and families selected that option. 

Families will have the option to switch again, but, as before, are asked to commit. Officials said there will likely be another opportunity in March or April. 

In order to consider relaxing any restrictions, cases will need to decrease and stabilize, Crofton said. Any decision will be made in consultation with the Maine CDC and Maine Department of Education. 

If and when that happens, the school department will consider reducing the required spacing between students from 6 feet to 3 feet and gradually increase in-person instruction time for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. At the junior high school, they would start by rotating the teachers between the pods and in the high school, in-person learning would increase from one day to two. 

Another review is scheduled for Dec. 9. 

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