Fall 2021 Opening Plan Overview Revised 8/30/21
*This is a working document and may change rapidly.
In accordance with US CDC and US DOE guidelines for schools (updated July 9, 2021), the district will return to school five days a week with all students and staff in-person for the 2021-2022 school year.
To provide access to a safe and inclusive learning environment that supports student and staff well-being.
To provide high quality educational programming that re-engages students and meets social, emotional, mental and physical health, and academic needs.
To address the impact of COVID-19 on students’ opportunity to learn.
To follow the public health guidelines as outlined by the State of Maine Center for Disease Control and the Maine Department of Education to the extent that is feasible.
Determining When it Is Safe for In-Person Instruction
Maine CDC and MDOE assists schools in determining when it is safe to host in-person instruction based on the following factors:
Maine Counties’ Risk of COVID-19 Spread for Schools: The CDC identifies four levels of community transmission and provides county level maps based on weekly infection rates as a means to help inform local school districts’ decision making about whether to bring students into the classroom. This categorization is based on quantitative and qualitative information. It includes, but is not limited to, recent data on case rates, positivity rates, and syndromic data (e.g., symptoms of influenza or COVID-19).
Blue - Low Transmission (0-1.2 new cases/day or 0-9.9 new cases/week per 100K population)
Yellow - Moderate Transmission (1.3-7 new cases/day or 10-49.9 new cases/week per 100k pop)
Orange - Substantial Transmission (7.1-14.3 new cases/day or 50-99.9 new cases/week per100K pop)
Red - High Transmission (>14.3 new cases/day or ≥100 new cases/week per 100K population)
School Community Considerations: The district will have the authority to exercise flexibility in regard to implementing cautionary measures regarding this plan. There may be times, due to COVID-19 related circumstances, that require alternative educational plans, such as remote learning/quarantining for specific groups or buildings (revised 8/11/21). District and school level decisions will be based on the school population, families and students served, as well as their communities. The primary factors for consideration include:
Level of community transmission of COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the community and among students, teachers, and staff.
COVID-19 outbreaks or increasing trends in the school or surrounding community.
Ages of children served by PK-12 schools and the associated social and behavioral factors that may affect risk of transmission and the feasibility of different prevention strategies.
Physical Health and Safety Plan
Disclaimer: This plan will be reviewed regularly at administrative team meetings and updated as needed to ensure the health and safety of our school community. It is our understanding that the CDC and the State of Maine will continue to provide updated information regarding the reopening of Maine schools. We continue to seek feedback from our school community, as well as gather updated and current information that would allow us to make well informed decisions.
The following is a description of how AOS 43/MSAD 31/MSAD 41 will implement layered COVID-19 prevention strategies in our PK-12 Schools:
Encouraging vaccination - We recognize that vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. The district encourages all students and staff to obtain a complete COVID-19 vaccination when eligible. The district will host another vaccination clinic for students and staff when the vaccination series becomes available to students ages 5-12 years old.
The district is required to collect and report staff vaccination status and report data to MDOE monthly. The monthly collection of staff vaccination data will be through an anonymous survey. There is no requirement for school districts to collect or report student vaccination data (revised for clarification on 8/17/21).
All vaccination information (student and staff) collected for the purposes of contact tracing will be on a voluntary basis. This information will be kept private and will be used only for contact tracing purposes by the school nurse.
Masks - The US CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status (revised August 11, 2021). With the updated language for “close contacts” under the SOPs for responding to a positive case in schools, and in an effort to minimize disruptions to learning this school year, our schools will follow the CDC guidelines on universal masking indoors (revised for clarification on 8/17/21).
US CDC continues to require masks on all school transportation (buses and vans) at all times. Masks are not required outdoors.
Face shields may be an alternative for those students with documented medical or behavioral challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings. The same applies to staff with medical or other health reasons for being unable to wear face coverings. Face shields worn in place of a face covering must extend below the chin and back to the ears. Nothing in this framework’s mask/face covering requirements should be interpreted as preventing a school from making accommodations on an individualized basis as required by state or federal disabilities laws.
Physical distancing - Social distancing of 3’ will be maintained to the extent possible. Distancing will not be enforced during brief (under 5 minutes) transition periods in hallways. Distancing is not required outdoors.
Symptom Screening at home before coming to school- Students (parents/caregivers) and staff members must conduct self-checks for symptoms prior to boarding buses or entering school buildings each day. Students and staff showing symptoms of COVID-19 are required to stay home and report their symptoms to the school nurse. The symptom screener has been updated and refined to screen out the common cold and other non-COVID ailments (revised 8/17/21). Administration will modify COVID-19 symptom lists as guidance is updated, and will communicate guidance and requirements regularly to stakeholders.
Ventilation - Our schools will continue to prioritize high rates of air exchange and appropriate ventilation through use of HVAC equipment, maximizing outdoor air as much as possible, and use of air purifiers in small spaces. Teachers are encouraged to keep windows open when temperatures allow.
Handwashing and respiratory etiquette - Students and staff will engage in a yearly hand washing training and will continue to be encouraged to engage in frequent handwashing for a minimum of 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer will continue to be available in all classroom spaces and main entrances. Students and staff are reminded to cough and sneeze into their elbow.
Contact tracing and returning to school after illness - The district will follow current state guidelines for determining close contacts and SOPs for responding to positive cases. Sick staff members and students must not be in school until they meet criteria for returning to school. The SOP for responding to positive cases was revised by MDOE on 8.12.21 and can be found here.
Additional Strategies for Our PK-12 Schools
School Provided Transportation
Per US CDC order, masks are required for students and staff on all school transportation.
Seating arrangements will be required.
TCTC/Region 3: Accommodations will be in place to ensure timely access to Tech Schools.
1 child per seat to the extent possible. Family members may be seated together. Grade level cohorts may need to be seated together on a limited basis (revised 8/30/21).
Pre K students must be seated towards the front of the bus in booster seats; parents will not be allowed to board the bus.
Bus Notes: Schools will not/cannot accept bus notes or changes due to limited space - parents will have to arrange pickup at the school or at their normal drop off location.
School start/end times - will be staggered to reduce the number of students on the bus at one time and minimize cross over to the extent possible.
Ventilation: Multiple windows and vents will be open (or slightly open) to improve air circulation when doing so does not pose a safety risk.
Food Service and School Meals
A minimum of 3’ between and among students while eating will be maintained to the extent possible. Lunch will be in cohorts at the elementary and middle school levels when possible and may be held outdoors when weather permits.
Breakfast -in the classrooms.
Lunch - Tally sheet as part of morning routine for meal options. Lunch plans/accommodations may vary per building and will be communicated by the building principals.
Remote Meal Plan: pick up options will be provided in the event we are required to move to remote learning.
Physical Distancing, Instruction and Facilities
The US CDC continues to strongly recommend a minimum of three foot distancing. Our schools will set up classrooms and eating spaces to maintain 3 feet between and among students to the extent possible.
Recess - Playgrounds will be assigned to grade level cohorts to reduce exposure.
Cohorts and seating arrangements- Elementary levels will share grade level cohorts for instructional programming, meal times and recess. Attention will be given toward establishing seating arrangements in all classrooms.
Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of facilities; Wiping down of high touch surfaces 2 times daily and between uses as possible (light switches, door handles, railings, desk tops); removal of furniture, toys, rugs, and other items that cannot be easily cleaned each day. Deep Cleaning will occur on a regular basis.
Meeting Social, Emotional and Academic Needs of Students - Social, emotional and academic development will be addressed through small teacher-to-student ratios and increased access to school counselors and social work services. The district will approach the learning gap through the application of a multitiered system of supports (MTSS) framework for grades K-12. The tiers provide an increasing amount of support and intervention using evidence based practices. Student achievement will be assessed and monitored throughout the school year to identify and address gaps in learning. Intervention will be provided to all students (Tier I) and through targeted plans and programs in order to support individualized student needs. MTSS teams will (1) meet regularly to collect student data through ongoing screening to determine student needs; (2) monitor student progress; and (3) analyze schoolwide data to address emerging or new needs to add or adjust personnel to provide additional services and expertise.
Supporting Equitable Access and Effective Use of Technology - We will continue to provide improved and individualized access and incorporate technology into our teaching and learning in order to maintain and increase access to digital learning in the event we must move to Red designations.
Addressing Lost Instructional Time - In alignment with MDOE and US DOE recommendations, Hybrid/Remote Learning will not be provided as a choice during the 2021-22 school year. Temporary changes to remote/distant learning will be provided to students that are required to quarantine as determined by the building principal or school nurse.
Additional Safety Precautions for daily instruction:
Efforts will be made to hold classes and activities outside whenever possible. Masks and physical distancing are not required for outdoor classes.
Efforts will be made to reduce sharing of instructional materials.
Sanitizing stations available when entering/leaving a room, building, and playground.
Traffic patterns will be established and labled; Doors designated for entering and exiting the building; 3’ indoor standing spaces on the floor near doors, bathrooms, sinks or other places where students may congregate and/or line up.
Courses Requiring Additional Safety Considerations
Students and staff must follow all required health and safety measures while on school grounds or engaged in school courses in other locations. Certain classes such as music, theater, dance, physical education, and the visual arts have unique characteristics that require special consideration. Research into how to safely engage in these types of activities is ongoing, and the following guidance will be updated as the research evolves.
Physical Education: With physical activity, individuals tend to breathe more heavily and speak louder or yell, which increases the potential for dispersal of respiratory droplets. Physical education classes and activities should follow the relevant guidance related to indoor/outdoor activities, masks/face coverings, and physical distancing described in this document. In addition:
Physical education should prioritize activities that do not require shared equipment.
Prioritize outdoor activities, whenever possible.
Students must wash or sanitize hands before and after physical education. Particular attention should be paid to washing and sanitizing hands before and after masks are removed and put on.
No sharing of water bottles, towels, mouth guards, helmets, or other equipment that comes into contact with the nose or mouth is allowed.
All sharing of equipment should follow the guidelines in the “Shared Objects” section of this document.
Band/Music and the Use of Musical Instruments Some musical instruments carry a relatively higher risk of virus transmission. Instruction for brass and woodwind instruments presents particular challenges. We will continue to make modifications to the programming as recommended by Maine Music Education and CDC and will follow adopted mask and distancing requirements consistent with the other school programs.
For band/music instruction using wind instruments (revised 8/16/21):
Use nylon or cloth bell covers with wind instruments
Maintain at least 3’ distancing
Students must be assigned instruments for their sole use; students may not share instruments or instrument equipment (reeds, mouthpieces, oils, wax, etc.)
Cleaning of spit valves is a higher risk activity that requires close attention to mitigation strategies. Musicians must maintain 6’ of physical distance from others while servicing their spit valves. No discharge of spit valves should occur on the floor. Absorbent pads or dedicated containers to discharge valves should be provided in rehearsal locations. Spit valves should be positioned as close to the absorbent pad/container as possible prior to clearing (lift pad to position of valve, if possible.) Pads and/or dedicated containers should be disposed of after each class/rehearsal by staff trained to work with pathogen prevention.
Meetings (In person v. virtual)
Regularly scheduled meetings will be held virtually or in-person and will be determined on a case by case basis. An effort will be made to reduce exposure among adults (staff and parents) to the extent possible.
Only school employees associated with the essential functioning of the organization will be permitted in the buildings during the school day at this time (revised 8/30/21).
Visitors and Special Events
Only school personnel will be permitted in the buildings during the school day with the exception of pre approved school related events. Activities and events involving external non-school related groups or organizations will not be permitted in the buildings.
Special Events (Open House, Parent Conferences, Athletic Meetings, Schoolwide gatherings, etc.) - Efforts will be made to reduce risk. When it makes sense to continue meeting virtually, efforts will be made to do so. When in person events occur, considerations will be made to stagger grade levels to limit crowding.
Extracurricular and Co-curricular Activities - Extracurricular will follow MPA guidelines; co-curricular and clubs will follow the adopted school guidelines.
Personal Protective Equipment
Additional safety precautions are recommended for school nurses and/or any staff supporting symptomatic students in close proximity, when distance is not possible, or when students require physical assistance. These precautions must at a minimum include eye protection (e.g., face shield or goggles) and a mask/face covering. A “medical isolation space” has been designated (separate from the nurse’s office) for students/staff who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms during the school day.