SCARBOROUGH — In March, the Scarborough School Department will examine what allowing students in school buildings for longer periods of time could look like, taking parent feedback into account.

On Feb. 25, Superintendent Sanford Prince said that the district is beginning the process of exploring options on amending the current plan. Now, most students attend school in-person for two days a week and are online from home for three.

The first step is to survey parents, he said. After gathering the data through March 5, the next step is for the Leadership Council to examine the data for potential recommendations to the current hybrid learning plan.

The district will continue to monitor and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Protection health recommendations as well as practice the requirements given by the Maine Department of Education, Prince said.

“I’d like to stress that we’ll continue to work with our safety constraints,” he said. Like following the states guidelines for limiting the maximum number of individuals gathering indoors to 50 and outdoor gatherings to 100.

In Scarborough Schools, there have been 51 positive COVID-19 cases to date, 1.5 percent of the school population, Prince said.

On March 11, the School Transition Reopening Redesign Taskforce, which met in the summer of 2020 to plan reopening schools for the current school year, will begin meeting again to consider recommendations, Prince said. The next update to the school board is scheduled for March 18.

“I would encourage the public to stay tuned, and we’ll do our best to communicate to you how we’re progressing with this work,” he said.

Many parents have reached out to the board via email with their opinions and concerns about reopening schools or the hybrid learning model, Board Chair April Sither said.

Scarborough students and parents “deserve” a plan and return to fully in-person learning date, said resident Elizabeth Avantaggio in an email to the board.

“Data shows that trans(mission) in schools is very low, especially here in Maine, so why do we continue to disregard the needs of our children and hold so stringent to a distance guideline that makes return to fulltime school in Scarborough nearly impossible?” she said. “The community deserves better and we need leadership who will work creatively to get our students back into the classroom where they belong.”

Resident Jennifer Ladd said her first-grade child has been struggling to learn online and she is not going to re-enroll him into Scarborough Schools if the model doesn’t change.

“What is more dangerous, the statistics around relatively low, not non-existent, but low, transmissions around school communities or the very obvious demonstrated impacts that our kids are feeling today, from so much screen-time, lack of interaction with friends, lack of interpersonal relationships with teachers and adults, not being able to pick out their own library books at school?” she said.

Emily Peck, resident and parent, said in an email to the board that she supports the district using the hybrid learning model until all teachers, at a minimum, are vaccinated.

“The concerns these parents are feeling about hybrid learning are valid and I understand that many parents need more support, but it cannot come at the risk of teachers’ and school staff’s safety,” she said.

Although educators would love to be with their students fulltime again, the hybrid learning model is best right now for everyone’s safety, said fifth-grade teacher Krystal Ash-Cuthbert.

“The one thing we’re not willing to sacrifice is our own lives, the lives of our loved ones, or the lives of a single one of our students,” she said. “That is absolutely where we will draw the line.”

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