July 20, 2020
Parents, Families and Community Members:
In May, SAU 34 implemented a Re-Entry Planning Structure. The first step was the creation of The Districts’ Leadership Team composed of SAU and Building Administration, the Facilities, Technology, and Food Service Directors, the District Nurse, the Grant Managers, and the Union Presidents. This team developed surveys to gather initial feedback from families, staff, students, and the community at large. Survey responses also created advisory groups of both parents and staff to support the planning work.
The Districts’ Leadership Team formed three task forces, headed by building administrators from across the district and with staff representation from all departments on each task force. Each Task Force focused on a single model for re-entry: Full Return, Full Remote, and Hybrid (a combination of in-person and remote learning and instruction) in alignment with the following goals:
- Protects the health and safety of all students and staff
- Promotes the social emotional well-being of all students and staff; and
- Provides all students equitable access to rigorous academic opportunities
The re-entry planning is informed by the guidance provided by our local, state, and federal governments and public health officials. Just like prior to the pandemic, the safety and health of students and staff remains the highest priority of the distinct.
The following key factors have emerged from the process:
- Social distancing and mitigation strategies such as face coverings and frequent hand washing must be part of any plan for the physical return to school buildings.
- Transportation is a particularly difficult problem in light of the dramatically reduced capacity on busses.
- It is a near certainty that conditions will require SAU 34 to be in a full remote model at various points during the 2020-2021 school year.
- In-person instruction is the best model for the vast majority of students, when it is physically safe for students and staff.
- In order to safely provide in-person instruction, we must both reduce the student to staff ratio and increase the amount of instructional space. This will require hiring additional staff.
- Students in grades Kindergarten - 2 benefit least from remote instruction.
- All remote instruction needs to have opportunities for real time interaction and instruction.
- Positive relationships are the foundation of successful and productive student learning.
- Technology is a valuable tool that we can leverage to support learning and teaching.
- SAU 34 is fortunate to have 1:1 student devices, but we understand that internet connectivity can vary widely.
- Predictable structure and scheduling are necessary for students, staff, and families to successfully access learning opportunities and transition between models of instruction.
- A clear majority of students, staff, and families reported that remote learning was stressful.
- We recognize that the health risk factors in individual households are different and that a number of families and staff have reported that members of their household are at higher risk of infection.
Taking all of this into consideration, the Districts’ Leadership Team believes that we will need to begin the 2020-2021 school year with a hybrid model that meets the needs outlined above. Using a hybrid model allows us to combine in-person and remote learning and instruction.
The details of which will be presented as soon as possible. The SAU has five school buildings and each has unique features. Our goal is for elementary students and those in specialized programming or with unique circumstances at all grade levels to return to campuses for in-person instruction and learning as much as possible. Middle and high school students will return to campuses for in-person instruction and learning part of the week with remote learning and instruction the remainder of the week. This staggered system will allow for recommended social distancing both in classrooms and on busses. Remote learning will have scheduled live instruction, and those sessions may be recorded for later availability to students. It is our hope that students who are unable to attend in-person sessions will be able to access live streaming from home.
SAU 34 will have a cycle of continuous monitoring and reevaluation of the current health and safety conditions at the community, state, and national level to determine if and when it is appropriate and necessary to transition to either a more remote model or a more in-person model. The health and safety of the students and staff is our highest priority, as we cannot fulfill our mission of high quality, future focused educational opportunities for all students without first attending to their physical and emotional well-being.
We understand that every family has individual needs and circumstances and we are aware that you will have to make decisions for your unique family situation. Our community is strongest when our schools and families work in partnership. The districts’ draft re-entry plans are designed to provide both families and the schools the flexibility necessary to meet our changing circumstances throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
In order to assist us in moving the re-entry plans forward to the school boards for final approval we are asking each family to provide the following information:
- Do you plan on having your children attend SAU 34 schools in person, as described, this fall?
- Can you provide daily transportation to school for your children?
- Is there any additional information you would like to provide us?
Please click on this link to provide your responses: Family Specific Re-Entry Information
Superintendent of Schools
SAU 34 Re-Entry Planning Structure
Planning for the 2020-2021 school year is an extraordinarily complex endeavor. The District Leadership Team has designed a structure for the re-entry planning process.
The District Leadership Team composed of SAU and Building Administration, the Facilities, Technology, and Food Service Directors, the District Nurse, and the Grant Managers will meet weekly from this point forward.
Three Tasks Forces are being formed to plan for the potential scenarios we will face in the fall. Using this approach will allow each Task Force to focus in depth on their scenario. The task force leaders will report out their work each week at the District Leadership Team Meetings.
The principals and assistant principals are Task Force Leaders. The three scenarios are:
- Full Return to Campus
- Full Remote Instruction
It is essential that all stakeholder voices are part of that process. To that end we are asking for staff members who want to help lead this work to apply to be part of a task force. The posting will be available in applitrack shortly. Task Force placement will be done to ensure a balanced and complete perspective. The time commitment will be a weekly meeting of not more than two hours and potential project work between meetings. These meetings will continue for the foreseeable future. This work is paid at the rate defined by the collective bargaining agreements.
In addition to the task forces we will survey all stakeholder groups and we will also form advisory councils of stakeholder groups who are willing and available to respond to additional surveys and questionnaires as needed.
Weekly updates of this on-going work will be published by the SAU.
Be safe and stay well.
Patricia Parenteau, Assistant Superintendent