The Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District school committee approved full practice, scrimmaging and interscholastic competition for Boothbay Region High School winter sports Dec. 5. The decision follows a timeline set forth by Maine Principals Association which follows Maine Center for Disease Control guidelines. The committee passed socially distanced practices Dec. 1 and on Dec. 17 lift a condition requiring safety goggles during basketball practices.
BRHS Athletic Director Allan Crocker said boys and girls varsity basketball teams will have a 12-game schedule including Camden Hills Regional, Winthrop, Hall-Dale, Medomak Valley and Oceanside high schools, Lincoln Academy and Richmond Middle High School.
Member Bruce MacDonald said while he can appreciate those who may not want to take chances with interscholastic competition, he believes CDC guidance has not yet led the public astray. “I don't have any special knowledge that would make me take a vote different from what the CDC is recommending (and) with the MPA following (them). I guess it's hard to know what to do as a member because some of us may feel, 'Well, if it were our kid we might not want to have (games) given the state of the pandemic' … But I'm prepared to support this motion.”
Member Ruth Macy said if the committee was voting on allowing practicing and scrimmaging among just Seahawk athletes, she would vote yes, but she is not comfortable with allowing student athletes to interact with ones from other schools.
Said Macy, “When we first voted on winter sports, there were 33 schools under investigation … As of this morning there are now 46 schools … There are a lot of people in our community who do not have the ability to just call out of work to stay home with their kids … It's not that I want to create any hardship for our student athletes, but I am really concerned about the impact of student athletes spreading COVID because basketball in particular is high risk for all the things that help promote the virus.”
The committee voted 5-1 in favor with Macy dissenting.
Boothbay Region Elementary School Principal Shawna Kurr said while all staff support getting all students back into the classroom, about 80% cited COVID-19 fears and instructional logistics as reasons to remain in the hybrid model. All kindergarten through second grade staff are against going back to regular instruction and that demographic is the first priority in the CSD, said Kurr.
“I came into this new year wondering when are we going to be ready … I had an idea that we might be ready in the new year. I guess I was hopeful like everyone else that with the election and the calendar turning to 2021 … I put my proposal out to the staff yesterday … and I was wrong.”
Kurr said classes require more preparation, curriculum is in constant need of readjustment, teachers need to spend extra time creating individual material for students and all teachers are learning the Edmentum online platform. “So, we're ready to go into the yellow designation, we're ready to go into the red designation and our staff are doing what I've asked them to do … They don't get to sit back and fall back on what they know and what they've done in the past – they're recreating every single week, every single day, every quarter, every unit.”
Kurr said bringing students back to a full schedule would also mean losing services like pre-k, special education, response-to-intervention setups, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, social work services, and other help for remote learners who can only access them on site on Wednesdays. It would also take time from teachers who also need to balance guidance in the virtual academy, lesson planning, class preparation and regular instruction.
BRHS Principal Tricia Campbell said her school will continue operating in two cohorts with a remote Wednesday, will continue the online virtual academy and first semester finals will be held Jan. 25 and 26 with a make-up day Jan. 27. Snow days will work as usual, but any school delays for BRES would send BRHS into a remote school day, said Campbell. Kurr explained the cleaning and sanitizing on the buses push the schedules ahead so much, a regular school day could not be justified for BRHS students.
The committee voted to accept $128,768 from Boothbay Region Education Fund. Paul Coulombe donated the funds to help Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) buy state of the art equipment, said Laser.
“The (teachers) really took off with this thing. We're going to take a corner of the cafeteria and turn it into a maker space … and it's pretty neat, we're going to have some pretty high-tech stuff in there.”
Laser announced paid sick leave supported by Families First Coronavirus Response Act has expired. The CRA program mandated employers offer 14 days for anything COVID-19 related.
“From here on out, if any employees have any issues with the coronavirus, they're pretty much going to have to take either leave to get paid after they take their vacation days: Their personal days or their sick days. Unfortunately, that's beyond our control.”