WOOLWICH — Woolwich Central School students will return to full-time in-person learning in early December.

The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors unanimously approved the change Monday. The target return date is Dec. 7, but Woolwich Central School Principal Jason Libby said that’s dependent on how quickly he can hire and train two new staff members.

Libby said the new staff will work with second and third graders, the largest grade groups in the school. The classes will be split and spread out to different rooms in the building to meet Maine Department of Education requirements and mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“We have to recognize the benefit of getting the students back five days a week,” Libby said. “Is it without risk? No, but no plan is without risk at this point.”

Woolwich Central School has 280 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, according to RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel. There are typically 11 to 14 students in each classroom.

Dr. Amina Hanna, a pediatrician at Mid Coast Hospital who has been guiding RSU 1 through the reopening process, advocated for the full in-person learning plan. She said children who test positive for COVID-19 were usually exposed to the disease through a sick adult close to them, not through another child in class or playgroups.


Hanna also pointed to Sagadahoc County’s low COVID-19 case number and positivity rate, making it a relatively favorable place to open schools full-time.

Woolwich, with a population of about 3,230, has had just one to five COVID-19 cases in total, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

Sagadahoc County has seen 122 confirmed and probable cases, 86 of which have recovered, and no deaths as of Tuesday, according to CDC data. The county holds a 1% positivity rate over the past 14 days, the second lowest rate in the state, with 23 people testing positive out of the 2,277 tests administered as of Tuesday.

While local cases have remained low, Manuel recognized the risk of sending students back full-time when the number of statewide cases continues to spike. However, he said allowing younger students to return to full-time in-person learning remains the school board’s goal.

“We felt like having our younger students come back to help support their development academically, socially and emotionally is critical,” he said.

Reminding students to keep their distance from one another, especially when eating and moving around the building, is still the biggest challenge for students and teachers, Libby reported.


The school has adhered to a mixed in-person and online learning plan since school began in September to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. Students were split into two groups that each spend two days in school, then three days of online learning on alternating days.

RSU 1 serves Bath, Phippsburg, Arrowsic and Woolwich.

Only one parent, Dena Bachman of Arrowsic, submitted a public comment in which she championed a return to full-time in-person learning for Woolwich Central School. She has two students in Woolwich Central School.

“I feel safer with my kids in school in-person, five days a week, than I do in the current hybrid model,” said Bachman. “I prefer my kids and their classmates safely distanced at Woolwich Central School than being served by other outside programs, such as the YMCA day care or other facilities, that broaden the risk of exposure.”

Woolwich Central School is now the second elementary school in RSU 1 to approve full-time in-person learning for students. The board approved the same change for Phippsburg Elementary School last month.

Phippsburg Elementary School Principal Sandra Gorsuch-Plummer reported a smooth start to full in-person learning.

“Phippsburg Elementary School staff are incredibly caring individuals and are extremely committed to ensuring that our students meet or exceed academic standards,” said Gorsuch-Plummer. “They know that the best thing for Phippsburg Elementary School students is to have a predictable, emotionally safe routine and to be in school with their friends for five days per week.”

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