Gov. Janet Mills told Maine’s school districts Wednesday that the state expects all schools to resume full-time, in-person learning this fall.

The Maine Department of Education also told the school districts that physical distancing requirements will be relaxed next year. It also encouraged schools to participate in a free testing program designed to protect students who are not yet old enough to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

The state’s policy of requiring masks in schools has not changed, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Wednesday.

“School administrators and teachers have worked hard all year to protect their students from the virus, provide them with a good education, and meet many of their other needs,” Mills said. “With the progress we’ve made in vaccinating Maine people, we want to make sure that there are no barriers to getting our kids back into the classroom full-time.”

The Mills administration said it has also updated its guidance for summer school to eliminate distancing requirements for schools and programs that participate in a COVID testing program.

The vast majority of Maine schools have been providing in-person instruction since the fall, the Maine Department of Education said in a statement. Transmission of coronavirus has been lower in schools than the statewide average, the department said.

School districts in the Bath and Brunswick area are preparing to open fulltime in person, in compliance with the state’s new guidance.

“Schools will reopen in-person learning for all students in September,” Brunswick Superintendent Phil Potenziano told the school board Wednesday. “In-person learning will take place for all students each school day, including Wednesdays, so five-days-a-week.”

Potenziano added that regular hours will return and the school is not planning a remote or hybrid learning option, unless there is an individual circumstance that requires special programming.

“We’ll be returning to our normal, pre-COVID, school day schedule,” he said.

According to Brunswick Director of Curriculum Shanna Crofton, social distancing requirements are also scheduled to be lifted come fall.

Since reopening September of 2020, Brunswick Schools have offered a hybrid in-person program as well as fully remote option to students as a result of the pandemic. After a school board vote in March, Brunswick schools went from two to four-days-a-week of in-person learning on April 29.

In total, there have been 71 cases of COVID-19 in the Brunswick School Department, all of which are recovered. There are no active cases as of Thursday.

Bath-based Regional School Unit 1 is “committed to returning to 100% in-person learning at all schools for the 2021-2022 school year,” Superintendent Patrick Manuel wrote in a message Wednesday to families and staff. “We are in the process of hiring additional staff and finalizing other details, but we are optimistic for next year especially given that the State just announced that they intend to lift all physical distancing requirements for PreK-12 effective for the start of the 2021 school year.”

All RSU 1 schools will return to their normal daily schedules, hybrid schedules will not be offered and remote learning is available for health reasons.

Maine has been the site of more than 68,000 cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic. That is less of a burden than most states that have similar population sizes.

New cases of the virus in Maine are continuing to fall.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 146.43 new cases a day on May 24 to 73.43 new cases a day on Monday. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 2.71 deaths a day on May 24 to 2.14 deaths a day Monday.

About 62% of the state’s population is now fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

With reporting by the Associated Press and C. Thacher Carter of The Times Record.

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