School districts throughout the Lakes Region are mixed in their decisions on whether to increase in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year.

COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise across the region, especially among young people.

Gray-New Gloucester’s school board has taken a conservative approach to their schools’ post-April vacation plans and voted earlier this month to maintain the current hybrid learning model, while the Bonny Eagle, Windham-Raymond and Lake Region boards have opted to increase in-person instruction.

The boards’ changes to student schedules are only for students enrolled in hybrid learning programs, which is part-time in-person, part-time remote. All districts gave students the option to go 100% remote for the academic year.

The one-school Sebago School Department has not made any changes to its plans. Students who opted for in-person learning at the beginning of the school year have been in classrooms five days a week since September. The district has reported less than five cases of COVID-19.

Here are schools’ plans for the remainder of the academic year:

Bonny Eagle 

A majority of school board members voted to return all special education students, high schoolers at risk of graduating and first and sixth grades to five-days-a-week, in-person instruction beginning on March 29.

Superintendent Paul Penna said earlier this week that high school administrators are working on bringing any at-risk students back full-time, but are especially focused on ninth- and twelfth graders.

SAD 6 serves four towns in York and Cumberland counties – Standish, Buxton, Limington and Hollis – and is the largest school district in the Lakes Region and one of the largest in the state.

There is no change for all other hybrid students, but the school board passed a resolution last month urging the state to “review and revise” its guidelines for reopening schools.

As of the latest update to the Department of Education’s COVID-19 dashboard on April 15, which tracks cases over the last 30 days, the high school and middle school are currently considered outbreak sites, with 10 cases and less than five cases, respectively.

The CDC considers any school where there have been three or more cases related within a 14-day period to be an outbreak site.

There have been 57 cumulative cases among students and staff that have impacted schools as of April 20, according to the district dashboard.

Windham-Raymond

The school board approved a plan April 7 to add an additional day of in-person instruction for hybrid students.

Hybrid students are split into two cohorts and attend school in-person twice a week with a remote learning day on Fridays. Beginning April 30, the cohorts will be in-person on alternating Fridays.

Windham High (nine cases), Windham Middle (less than 5 cases), Windham Primary (six cases) and Manchester Elementary (six cases) are all currently in outbreak status.

The high school, including the Katahdin Program located on the campus, had to go remote a couple of days last week in response to high numbers of students and staff that had to be quarantined.

There have been 124 cumulative cases and there are 144 individuals in quarantine as of April 15, according to the district dashboard.

Gray-New Gloucester 

School board members deliberated for nearly two hours earlier this month on whether to increase in-person instruction, but ultimately decided to maintain the current structure with two days per week in-person with a third, alternating day between the two cohorts.

The board found that “the complexities of the logistical changes,” including spacing, transportation and meals “would not yield enough significant benefit for our students,” Superintendent Craig King wrote in a letter to the community April 9.

There are no open outbreaks at SAD 15 schools, however.

Some schools have had to go fully remote on multiple occasions this school year due to quarantine requirements that resulted in staffing shortages, most recently a few weeks ago when the high school went remote for two days.

The district reported 76 cumulative cases as of April 14.

Lake Region 

SAD 61 has not experienced the same high case counts as the other districts. The school board voted March 22 to begin a phased return to in-person instruction this month, beginning with four days a week starting April 5.

When students return from April vacation next week, all hybrid students will now be attending school in-person five days a week.

SAD 61 serves the towns of Bridgton, Casco, Naples and Sebago.

According to the district’s notifications, there have been 26 cumulative cases this school year.

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