Fifth graders at Bowdoimham Community School read the Bowdoinham Pandemic Press, a newspaper they created. Each story analyzes a different way their school changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Diana Marc-Aurele

BOWDOINHAM — Each year, fifth graders at Bowdoinham Community School write an article about something happening in their community as part of a journalism unit. When the COVID-19 pandemic halted all events, their teacher, Diana Marc-Aurele, had to get creative.

“These kids are in this unique situation,” said Marc-Aurele. “They’re going to school in the middle of the pandemic. That hasn’t happened in 100 years.”

Instead of covering events in their community, each student wrote about a different aspect of their school that has changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, those stories and a few hand-drawn comics meshed together to create the Bowdoinham Pandemic Press.

“They embraced the idea because it gave them a chance to tell their stories,” Marc-Aurele said of her students. “It enabled them to use their curiosity and explore their own school a bit. They’re telling stories that people don’t know if they don’t work at the school.”

Some students wrote about how school bus rides this year are a far cry from the noisy, crowded buses they’re used to. Others described the school’s new isolation room where students go if they’re sick in school rather than the nurse’s office. Regardless of the story’s focus, students wove a message of understanding and gratitude into their stories.

“They see that adults are trying really hard, and that’s what they’re picking up on,” she said.


Part of Maine School Administrative District 75, Bowdoinham Community School teaches kindergarten through fifth grade. MSAD 75 includes Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Harpswell.

Fifth grader Josh Perkins said he chose to write about the school’s head custodian, Joanne Mitchell, because “I think her job is extra hard in a pandemic.”

“I didn’t know that the janitor has to clean a light switch every time someone flicks the lights,” said Perkins. “All day people flick the light switch on and off and she has to clean it every time. They have to clean so much more and they don’t get much credit for all they do.”

In his article, Dashiel Legawiec analyzed how the school’s specials like art and music class shrank into a cart loaded with sanitized supplies that travels to each classroom. In physical education, some games had to be altered to allow for social distancing among fewer players.

“Despite current challenges, specials are going pretty well,” Legawiec concluded. “So far, no one has tested positive for the coronavirus and we have the specials teachers to thank for keeping us all safe.”

Legawiec admitted the pandemic “hasn’t been great” because it lead the school to transition to full online learning last year.


“When we got back to school [this fall], all the water fountains were closed off, rooms were very different and we had snacks outside,” he said. “Right now I’m just happy we can be in person at least two days a week.”

Fifth grader Grace Henderson said she thinks the COVID-19 pandemic is “the worst” but said she recognizes the changes the school made are for everyone’s safety.

In her article, Henderson discussed how students were split into groups that go to school in person on alternating days to reduce the number of students in the building. Although teachers are pleased with how well students have adapted to the new schedule, she reported, “everyone wishes we could go back to normal.”

“It’s not fun, but we’re making the best of it,” Henderson said. “I think that the school’s changes are good and socially safe.”

Victoria Libby, a Portland-based clinical psychologist trained in adult and child psychology, said the newspaper presents students with a unique opportunity to share their thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their lives.

“It definitely can’t hurt,” said Libby. “This gives them an outlet to express how things have changed, both good and bad. Any opportunity we can create for kids to do that can only be good.”

Based on the students’ articles, Libby said the students appear to think positively about the adults in their lives and “they’re doing what they need to do in order to make sense of this.”

After schools switched to full online learning last March, Marc-Aurele said she worried about what school would look like and how the students would respond when they returned in the fall. Pushing her fears aside, she said she resumed in-person teaching this academic year because “the kids need some sense of normalcy, and ultimately, the kids and their learning are what’s most important.”

“As soon as the kids came in, they had their masks on, I could see the smiles behind them, and they were so happy to be there,” she said. “The adversity they’ve faced is going to help them in the long run. They’ve taken it, rolled with it, and done what we ask them to do. I’m really proud of these kids.”

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