The Maine School Administrative District 75 school board discusses increasing in-person learning for students Thursday. Screenshot

TOPSHAM — Maine School Administrative District 75 will increase fourth- and fifth-graders’ in-person learning days from two to four days a week starting Feb. 22, Assistant Superintendent Amanda Hersey told the school board Thursday.

The district has been increasing in-person learning incrementally, starting with the youngest grades, since December 2020. The school board has continued to debate whether it should bring students back to school full-time and, if so, how quickly.

In the meantime, students continue to participate in a mix of in-person and remote learning. The district has also offered a remote-only option for students.

Hersey said grades 6-8 also will get another in-person day of school every other Wednesday starting on Feb. 22. Elementary schools would still be closed to in-person instruction on Wednesdays.

Board member Linda Hall asked if Mt. Ararat Middle School can have students return on Wednesdays, why can’t the elementary schools do the same. MSAD 75, which serves Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham, has five elementary schools.

“We really were wanting to bring that back pretty purposely and integrating that return so we could really assess the safety,” Hersey said

Advertisement

As each grade level has transitioned to four days a week of in-person instruction, it has required schedule adjustments regarding arrival, dismissal and lunchtimes. The changes in daily schedules on Wednesdays at the middle school have altered or eliminated teachers’ planning time for the week. Wednesdays are also a day for professional development, Hersey said.

“It will take changes in the current schedule to be able to do that,” Hersey said.

Board member Brandy Robertson said the district’s school reopening plan was to have students back in school five days a week as long as the district was considered to have a relatively low risk of COVID-19 transmission. Robertson said she’d like to see the district working to get students in elementary and middle schools to full in-person instruction all week.

Her sentiment was echoed by board member Alison Hawkes, who argued the COVID-19 cases and infection rates aren’t growing within the district.

“We’re not shutting down over and over again because we have crazy numbers,” she said. “I’m of the mindset that I do want a more concrete plan, especially at the middle school.”

Board member Eric Lusk said schools adjacent to MSAD 75 have been able to open five days a week this school year.

Advertisement

Lusk motioned to reopen Harpswell Community School to in-person learning five days a week starting March 8, adding that he chose that elementary school because he is more familiar with the school.

The motion failed, 9-2, with two abstaining.

Lusk made a similar motion during the Jan. 14 board meeting that also failed.

“We had a plan that called for going back to school in-person five days a week,” Lusk said. “We don’t seem to have to call Wednesdays off because of concerns about the health of the students or teachers. The parents are stuck at home with the students on that Wednesday and we’ve asked the parents to sacrifice for a year now and I think it’s great to give the parents something to look forward to.”

There have been a total of 42,259 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases in Maine and 846 cases in Sagadahoc County as of Thursday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. There had been 70 cases in Bowdoinham, 73 in Bowdoin, 243 cases in Topsham and 53 cases in Harpswell as of Feb. 7.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.