Morse High School seniors Mark Werner (left) and Gabriel Croteau (right) wait in the high school gymnasium after receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both said they chose to get vaccinated because it gives them peace of mind. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Many school districts within the southern Midcoast are planning to return their schools to full in-person instruction after a turbulent 15 months filled with remote learning, distancing and face masks, incited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendents from Regional School Units 1, RSU 5, Brunswick and Wiscasset confirmed they are planning to adopt full in-person learning in the fall, per Gov. Janet Mills’ most recent mandate, issued June 9.

In the announcement, the Mills Administration wrote it “expects all schools to offer full-time, in-person learning” with relaxed distancing requirements in the fall. The Maine Department of Education updated its COVID-19 guidelines for schools in tandem with the announcement.

“Classroom instruction is critical for the social and mental development of our kids,” Mills wrote in the announcement. “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. 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.”

RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel said the district will resume full in-person learning in the fall without distancing, however administrators haven’t yet determined whether masks will still be required for unvaccinated individuals.

The district is also working to hire 9.5 educational technicians and 7.5 teachers, Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph told the school board Tuesday. Manuel said those additional staff members will allow schools to keep class sizes small and will act as “academic and social-emotional interventionists.”


“We’d like to make some class sizes smaller to provide more individual attention within the classroom,” said Manuel. “Next year we’ll have students coming back without a full year of school under their belt.”

RSU 1, covering Bath, Arrowsic, Woolwich and Phippsburg, will also offer fully remote learning for families who aren’t ready to return to in-person learning. Joseph said 19 students across the district have opted-in thus far, all of whom chose full distance learning this year. All 19 students cited medical reasons for wanting to continue remote learning, said Joseph.

Unlike RSU 1, the Brunswick School Department will not be offering a full distance learning option for families when full in-person instruction begins in the fall, according to Superintendent Phil Potenziano.

Potenziano said he hasn’t yet determined whether mask and distancing requirements will remain in place. He said the district is “awaiting further guidance from the Maine Department of Education.”

“Just a few weeks ago, we were planning for a hybrid model, and now we are full-steam ahead for in-person instruction,” said Potenziano. “We are prepared to reopen schools with the services we have budgeted. We are not hiring additional teachers at this time. Still, in our budget, we have increased mental health services, reorganized special education services, and will be looking at potential services for student support next year.”

According to RSU 5 Superintendent Becky Foley, the district, which covers Durham, Freeport and Pownal, will not require face masks or distancing, though that could change.


The district also isn’t planning to offer a remote learning option for families that aren’t ready to return to in-person classes, said Foley. “If there are individual students with extenuating circumstances we would work to create an individual plan for that student.”

Wiscasset School Department Superintendent Terry Wood said Wiscasset students will return to full-time in-person learning this fall, but declined to comment on whether additional measures such as face masks and physical distancing will remain in place.

“We will continue to monitor the guidance from the CDC and the Maine Department of Education as we make any further decisions for the fall,” said Wood.

Maine School Administrative District 75 Superintendent Shawn Chabot did not return requests for comment Thursday on his district’s plan for the fall. MSAD 75 covers Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham.

None of the superintendents knew what percentage of their students and staff were vaccinated as of Wednesday.

Two days after Mills issued her latest guidelines for reopening schools, the governor announced Maine’s State of Civil Emergency will end on June 30, as new COVID-19 cases within the state continue to wane. June 30 will also mark the end of the last remaining face covering requirement, which only applies to indoor Pre-K through grade 12 schools and childcare settings, according to the announcement.


Despite the change, the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend, though not require, that unvaccinated people – including those under 12 who are not yet eligible for a COVID vaccine – wear face coverings indoors and maintain six feet of distance when unmasked. These measures are still recommended because it mitigates the spread of COVID-19 because it’s an airborne virus.

School Administrative Units and child care settings may require face coverings, as some businesses have done, according to Mills’ announcement.

As of Wednesday, over 67% of Sagadahoc County’s eligible population had received its second vaccine dose, according to the state’s vaccination website. In Cumberland County, over 76% of the population had received the second vaccine dose as of Wednesday.

In Sagadahoc County, over 42% of the county’s 12-19 age population had received their second vaccine dose as of Wednesday, according to state data. In Cumberland County, over 53% of the county’s age 12-19 population had received the final vaccine dose.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Maine in March 2020, 1,473 people within Sagadahoc County have tested positive and 11 have died as of Wednesday, according to the Maine CDC.

In neighboring Cumberland County, the Maine CDC reported 17,205 have tested positive and 200 have died as of Wednesday.

Statewide, 68,683 Mainers have tested positive since March 2020 and 853 have died, according to the Maine CDC. Of those, 12,947, or about 19%, were under 20 years old.

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