As children in the southern Midcoast region are returning to school, the surge in COVID-19 cases from the highly contagious delta variant is causing some parents to question how safe conditions will be for in-person instruction.

School departments across the Midcoast announced it will not offer a remote learning option in the fall and has mandated universal masking for all students and staff.

While some parents are preparing to send their children back to school, some are anxious about how schools will enforce social distancing. Parents of younger students are concerned because their children can’t be vaccinated yet.

Kay Metivier, a mother of three kids who attend Topsham-based Maine School Administrative District 75, said she often talks to her kids about what to expect things to be like at school this year, similar to last year.

“My sixth-grader and second-grader are excited to return to school. My fourth grader is a little more reluctant. Last year was a tough year with many changes,” said Metivier. “At the end of the year, they were attending five days a week so that it won’t feel completely new to them, but they have shared concerns about things being different.”

Metivier added that she worries about her children having to experience masks, social distancing, and not playing with friends again on the playground.


“I have to answer some difficult questions that my children are asking, like when COVID will end or why we have to wear masks again? It’s a balancing act,” said Metivier. “The last three school years have been a guessing game. Parents are struggling with whether sending their children to school is the right choice or not.”

In June, Gov. Janet Mills informed Maine’s school districts that the state expects all schools to offer full-time, in-person learning in the fall.

The Maine Department of Education also encouraged schools to participate in a free pooled testing program to protect students who are not yet old enough to receive a vaccine.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that parents should stay calm and reassuring during the transition. It’s essential to use a calm voice, with a relaxed face and body to let the child know that you wouldn’t leave them if they were not safe and protected.

For Thomas Feeley, a parent of a third-grader at Williams Cones School in Topsham, the biggest concern heading into the school year is the potential for COVID outbreaks.

“In addition to the obvious health concerns for students, staff, and close contacts, my wife and I work and would have to scramble for childcare in the event of quarantine and closures,” said Feeley.


Feeley said it was disappointing to see the MSAD 75 school board voted 7-6 in favor of the mask requirement.

“It’s unbelievable that six members of the school board were against masks when COVID cases are surging statewide. They are revisiting the issue in October, and I am concerned that they could roll it back,” said Feeley.

The Maine CDC reported 287 new COVID cases and 17 deaths in the last seven days. While Cumberland County reported 376 confirmed cases, Sagadahoc and Androscoggin counties reported.

One Lisbon parent — who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution — said that with the school department not providing a remote option for students, it’s difficult for parents to deal with children suffering from health issues.

“There is still no remote option for students who are immunocompromised or dealing with ongoing health issues. Many parents are faced with the difficult decision to homeschool or enroll in an online academy, and most of the accredited virtual schools are at capacity,” said the parent.

Richard Green, the superintendent of the Lisbon School Department, said they have not been offering remote learning options as the school department is staff crunched.

“Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient staff to offer remote learning options for families. Even during the last academic year, we held full-fledged in-person classes,” said Green.

The Lisbon School Department would go back to remote learning only if too many positive COVID-19 cases in an independent school or district-wide are reported later in the school year. A single classroom, school, or district may move to remote learning for 14-28 days or an indefinite period as determined based on the recommendations from either the Department of Education, CDC, or other local health authorities.

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