Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District administrators have been seeking staff and parental feedback on how to proceed with opening Boothbay Region Elementary and High schools on Sept. 8. The Maine Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control decide July 31 on one of three scenarios school districts need to be planning for: distance learning only, a combination of in-school and distance learning, or open and expected to follow CDC guidelines.
Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Superintendent Keith Laser and principals Tricia Campbell of BRHS and Shawna Kurr of BRES released reports on surveys for CSD staff, AOS 98 staff and parents of CSD students.
Said Campbell, “The health and well being of our children is incredibly important to us and we understand that our families have concerns … The purpose of the survey was to help us to gather information from parents regarding their plans for this school year. The answers ... are not officially binding. The knowledge gained will be used for planning purposes so we can best support our children and families.”
182 parents responded to three main questions about sending their children back to school. Just over half said they were comfortable sending their children to school under CDC and MDOE guidelines. Nearly a quarter were unsure and a quarter were not willing to send their children to school.
About half those unwilling to send their children to school are concerned about CDC guidelines and the other half about having high risk health situations in the home; 65% said their children would engage in distance learning through the CSD, while nearly a third were unsure and under 5% said they will opt for homeschooling. Over 75% of parents said they would enroll their children in distance learning through the CSD should the schools remain closed, nearly 20% were unsure and just under 5% said they would unenroll their children.
Of eighty-eight CSD staff members who responded to a survey asking which of the scenarios works best for classes and for the buildings, 77 said they would be able to come back to school at the end of August; 57 could work full time remotely; and two said the scenario could not work due to their job descriptions; 13 said they belong to a high risk group.
Also, 127 AOS 98 staff members were asked to rate the importance of health and safety measures: 68.5% said it is very important for all staff to wear face coverings and about 60% said it is important that students do. About 62% said it is very important for students to have a daily health screening and just over 60% said the same of staff.
Half said carrying out limited use of shared space and directed traffic patterns in the classroom and halls will be most important; 87% of staff prioritized high levels of sanitation; school-provided personal protection equipment (72%); and hygiene signage (73%); 61% said limiting shared supplies and visual support for distancing will also be very important.
Over 87% of AOS 98 staff said they could return to school at the end of August and about 75% said no one in their household is high risk. 87% said they do not belong to a high risk group while 16% said they either have a documented condition or are 65 years or older. About 29% said they have a family member either 65 years or in another high risk group.
The comments portion of the AOS 98 staff survey reflected concerns over implications for going back to school and for continuing distance learning. Parent-teachers shared concerns about working in school while their child is distance learning at home or vice versa; providing a learning environment for children who have behavioral issues; those who may be forced to become a one-income home; those who have family members with health issues; and expectations for younger students to wear masks and for teachers’ effectiveness instructing while wearing masks.
Said Campbell, “There are a number of factors that might affect school plans such as recommendations from the Maine Department of Education, CDC updates, as well as student enrollment and population numbers given the current climate. RSU 1 reopening plans, as well, will impact Boothbay Region students participating in Bath Tech programs. There are many pieces and perspectives that have to be considered and looked at.”