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Updates on Covid-19 "coronavirus"
Updates on Covid-19 "coronavirus"
Mike Felton
Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Dear St. George Families and Community Members,

Last night, the School Board approved the St. George MSU Return to School Handbook. This handbook – which includes our Green (In-person) , Yellow (Hybrid), and Red (Remote) Plans – was shaped, revised, and improved by school staff, Board members, parents, community members, and community organizations. Together, we created a plan tailored to the needs and strengths of our community.

It has been a demanding process, however, we come out of this planning process stronger than ever. We know that – as a community and school – we have been tested and rose to the occasion. We will get through this because we are a community that is fully committed to doing whatever it takes for our kids and one another. 

Our students have the chance to be members of a very select group that returns to in-person instruction five days per week in September. That’s a testament to the work our state and community have done – and must continue to do – to control the spread of the virus and, in doing so, keep our schools open.

On behalf of every teacher, ed tech, driver, food service worker, custodian, administrative assistant, administrator, and School Board member, please know that we are excited to have our students back at school in the fall.  Our class sizes will be smaller.  We will do more outdoor education than ever before.  Our partnership with Blueberry Cove has grown to include Before and After School Care Programs as well as a Middle Level Program during the school day.  We have a K-8 curriculum to support students’ social and emotional learning (SEL).   Even our ventilation system has been improved with better filters and to bring in more outside air.

Our school community will continue to rise to the challenge, take care of one another, and - above all else - care for our children. That is our mission and that’s what makes us Dragons.

Sincerely,

Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent


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Friday, July 24, 2020

Dear St. George Families and Community Members,

After almost two months of meetings, research, conversations, reviewing family and staff survey results, and pouring over ever changing federal and state guidelines, the Return to School Committee shared their Draft Return to School Plan – Outline and Key Recommendations at the July 15 School Board Meeting.  While this is only a draft document that will be revised and updated before the start of school on September 8, it provides a comprehensive overview of our planning and preparation for next year.  The draft plan, along with other documents concerning our preparations for next year, are available on the school website.

Over the days and weeks to come, Return to School Committee members will hold small group meetings with parents and community members to share more information about our planning, respond to questions, and listen to your thoughts, feedback, and concerns.  Information on those small group meetings will be available soon.  If you want to schedule a separate time to discuss concerns or questions, please feel free to email (m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org) or call (207.372.6312) me and we’ll find a time to talk.

Our goal remains to develop a plan that allows students to safely return to in-person instruction in the fall. In developing this plan, we are focused on (1) student, staff and community health; (2) the costs and benefits of social distancing and other strategies that may mitigate the risk of viral spread during the school day; and (3) the importance of classroom-based learning to our students’ academic growth, social development, and overall health and wellbeing.  Our plan is informed by educators and school staff, families and community stakeholders, public health officials, and state and federal requirements and recommendations. 

The Maine Department of Education recently updated their Framework for Returning to Classroom InstructionThe revised framework includes a red/yellow/green risk indicator for Maine counties to inform school districts “about whether and how to bring students back into the classroom” as well as required health and safety measures for all schools with information about masks/face coverings and social distancing.

We have come a long way since mid-March when we moved to remote instruction.  Nothing about this journey has been easy and it’s not over yet.  However, we have reason to hope.  The numbers of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Knox County remain low.  While many schools across the nation have already made the decision to move to remote learning in the fall, we still have the opportunity to get our kids back to school.  All of this could change (how many times have you heard that over the past two months!) and, despite all of our efforts, we can only mitigate, not eliminate, the risks associated with Covid-19.  But I still believe – I believe in our school, our community, and the St. George MSU mission - to do whatever it takes to ensure that every single student thrives and, as a school-community, to give back and contribute to the Town of St. George.

Stay healthy.  Stay hopeful.  Stay Dragon Strong.

Sincerely,

Mike Felton

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Dear Families,

As we move into the summer, I wanted to (1) share the results from the Family Survey, (2) provide an update on our planning for next year, and (3) encourage everyone to vote on School Budget Validation Referendum on Tuesday, July 14. 

Family Survey

  • First of all, thank you!!!  We received over 130 responses to the Family Survey and hundreds of comments.  I reviewed the results, read through every comment, and shared the results and comments with the School Board and Return to School Committee and subcommittees.  Your feedback has already begun to inform and shape our planning.  You can find a summary of the survey results here on the school website. 
  • Not surprisingly, the survey shows a variety of thoughts and feelings about risks posed by Covid-19, the impact of remote learning, and mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of viral spread.
  • Staff will be reaching out to talk with families who indicated that they wanted us to follow-up with them about their responses and those who said they were interested in participating in planning for next school year.

Planning for the Fall

Budget

  • The Proposed FY21 St. George MSU Budget for next school year reduces the assessment to the Town by about $40,000 and adopts a long-term strategy to prepare for the uncertainty of next school year.  More information about the budget is available here.
  • Voting will take place at the Town Office on Tuesday, July 14.  Information about requesting an absentee ballot is available on the town website as well as through the state.  The deadline for requesting absentee ballots is Thursday, July 9.

Sincerely,


Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent

m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org

207.372.6312 (school)

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Friday, June 12

Key Points

Dear Families,

St. George MSU staff have been hard at work wrapping up this school year and beginning the planning process for next year.  A lot is happening next week with the 8th Grade Celebration on Monday, Ice Cream Truck Tuesday, and End-of-Year Teacher Parade on the last day of school on Wednesday!

As I mentioned in the May 26 email to families, the School Board adopted a St. George MSU Return to School Roadmap, which is modeled on a document developed through an Opportunity Labs Initiative.  As part of our roadmap, six working groups are focusing on the following key areas as we plan for next year: (1) Facilities & Transportation, (2) Operations & Communications, (3) Instruction, (4) High School & Postsecondary, (5) Technology, and (6) Wellness.  Each working group will elect a representative to sit on the Return to School Committee, which will coordinate the work of the subcommittees and develop a comprehensive return-to-school plan for the School Board’s review and approval.  If you would like to learn more about the process or discuss ways to get involved, please contact me through email (m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org) or phone (372.6312)

Planning for next year will be a community effort.  We need to hear from you to inform, guide, and shape our plan for the fall.  Please take a moment and fill out the Return to School Family Questionnaire.  Your feedback is essential.  Thank you!

It is imperative that we – together, as a school-community – develop a plan for next year that is (1) tailored to our school community’s needs and (2) informed by educators and school staff, families, community members and organizations, town officials, public health officials, medical providers, and state and federal requirements and recommendations. 

In the recently released  Working Draft:  Return to Classroom Instruction Framework, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) announced that the "DOE, in partnership with CDC and MEMA, will determine when it is advisable for schools to begin in-person instruction."  Most everything else - including decisions "around specific models, schedules, and configurations for returning to the classroom setting, given the health and safety guidelines around social distancing, maximum group sizes, and hygiene" - is up to us.  And that - while overwhelming at times - gives me hope because I've seen what we can accomplish together - students, families, staff, community, St. George Education Association, and School Board.

We have a long way to go.  However - tonight at least - take a moment and reflect on all that we've accomplished.  If you need inspiration for the work ahead, watch DragonStrong Stories Part 1 and  Part 2.  

We are DragonStrong!

Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent

m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org

207.372.6312

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Tuesday, May 26 at 5:00 p.m.

Key Points

    • The School Board voted to adopt a Proposed FY21 St. George MSU Budget for next school year that reduces the assessment to the Town by about $40,000.
    • The proposed budget is part of a long-term strategy to protect our district from the financial impacts of the pandemic.  This strategy includes controlled expenditures, thoughtful use of the school fund balance, and establishing several reserve accounts.
    • We have begun planning for a return to school in the fall.  The School Board approved a St. George MSU Return to School Roadmap to help provide the structure and framework to facilitate that planning.
    • Together, as a school-community, we will develop a plan for next year.  Some things will look different in the fall and some things will remain the same.  Who we are – our commitment to our kids, community, and one another – will remain constant.  We will remain Dragon Strong

Dear Families and Community Members,

This Memorial Day, we remembered the men and women who died serving our country.  They remind us that freedom is founded upon service and sacrifice.  Every Memorial Day, we pause to remember this costly lesson and honor those who sacrificed so much for so many.  This Memorial Day Weekend, we also remembered the almost 100,000 people who have died because of Covid-19 and the ongoing pandemic.  Among these 100,000, are medical workers and first responders, grocery store employees and mass transit workers, who died caring for, feeding, and transporting their neighbors.  These men and women also remind us of the service and sacrifice that every nation and community depend upon.

This weekend, I couldn’t stop thinking about the service and sacrifice that binds our nation and community together.  We see this on grand levels as well as in the simple moments that make up most of our lives.  As I’ve gotten older, those small and simple acts of service, sacrifice, and kindness have come to mean more and more.  They give me hope that – as a community – we can meet any challenge and emerge stronger on the other side.  Those acts of kindness – both great and small – provide me with inspiration as we begin planning and preparing to return to school in the fall.

Dragon Strong

St. George School is a community-school and the heart and strength of our school is the Town of St. George.  Our mission is simple – to do whatever it takes to ensure that every single student thrives and to contribute to the vibrancy and resiliency of the Town of St. George.  We believe that for students to thrive – to demonstrate mastery and find meaning in education – they must share their learning in ways that positively impact their community.  As a school-community, we focus on students’ academic growth, character development, and health/wellness. We recognize that health/wellness – which we define as students’ physical & mental health, social-emotional well-being, and food security – is a prerequisite for academic growth and character development.

In times of adversity, like now, we refocus and recommit to that vision.  Some things will change as we adapt and overcome the challenges that we currently face.  However, who we are – our commitment to our kids, community, and one another – will remain constant.  We will remain Dragon Strong.

Proposed Budget for the 2020/21 School Year

When the pandemic struck in March, the School Board – working with staff and administration and in consultation with town officials – reworked the proposed budget for the 2020/21 school year.  In earlier versions, there were increases in the budget and local assessment to pay for the cost of adding a Pre-K Program.  While we remain committed to adding Pre-K at some point in the future, the Board, staff, and Early Childhood Education Working Group decided to wait given the financial impact of the pandemic on our community and the uncertainty as to what school will look like next year.  

As we revised the proposed budget through March, April, and May to account for the still uncertain effects of the pandemic, several things became clearer.  First, next school year will look different as we adapt to a “new normal” that incorporates social distancing and other steps to mitigate the spread of the virus.  This, in turn, could require increased costs in certain areas (e.g., more regular and intensive cleanings of the school building and buses, smaller class sizes, outdoor learning areas, etc.).  Second, as a school-community, we will need to address students’ academic and health/wellness needs arising from this pandemic.  Some studies show “that students could return in the fall having progressed only 70 percent of a grade in reading and less than 50 percent of a grade in math during the 2019-20 school year.”  In addition, many students will return with increased social-emotional and health/wellness needs due to extended school closures, stay-at-home orders, economic hardship, and the stress of living through a global pandemic.  Third, the pandemic will impact our state and local economies.  Due to projected state revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic, there is a risk that school districts could see a reduction, or “curtailment,” in state subsidy.

To address these challenges – the uncertainty of next year, increased student and family needs, and the financial impact of the pandemic – on Monday, May 18, the School Board voted to adopt a Proposed FY21 St. George MSU Budget for next school year that reduces the assessment to the Town by about $40,000 and adopts a longer-term strategy to prepare for the financial uncertainty that may extend beyond next year.

By reducing expenditures by about $23,000 and utilizing money from the school’s fund balance (i.e., money left over from past budgets), we were able to cut our anticipated state subsidy by 20% and reduce the assessment to the Town by about $40,000.  This means we are less reliant on state subsidy and better able to adapt if, later this summer or in the fall, the state reduces funding for public education.

The budget approved by the School Board also establishes several reserve funds to cover unanticipated costs that could arise as we continue to prepare for next year.  If these funds are not needed, they will be available to help offset costs in future budget years.

Through controlled expenditures, responsible use of the school’s fund balance, and the establishment of reserve accounts, the proposed FY21 budget addresses known, immediate needs; accounts for unanticipated needs; prepares for the uncertainty of upcoming fiscal years; and keeps the local assessment down.  More information about the proposed FY21 school budget is available on the school website.  If you have any questions about the budget, please contact Superintendent Mike Felton (m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org) or Business Manager Cassie Kilbride (c.kilbride@stgeorgemsu.org). 

Planning for the 2020/21 School Year

There have been an increasing number of reports and articles in the media discussing what school will look like in the fall.  As you may know, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently released detailed guidance for schools, and other organizations, on when and how to reopen.  In addition, the Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE) published guidelines and recommendations for school-sponsored summer programs.  The Maine DOE is currently working on a document to help school districts plan for the fall. 

After consulting with public health, medical, and state officials; meeting (virtually, of course) with other superintendents; talking with staff, families, Board, and community members; and reading and reviewing news articles and research, it’s become clear that no one knows exactly what school will look like next year.  We are fortunate that, as of May 26 at 11:30 a.m., the Maine CDC reports that there have only been 20 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Knox County, with 18 people recovered, 2 current cases, and no deaths. It is imperative that we – together, as a school-community – begin working now to develop a plan for next year that is (1) tailored to our school community’s needs and (2) informed by educators and school staff, families, community members and organizations, town officials, public health officials, medical providers, and state and federal requirements and recommendations. 

To guide our planning process, the School Board adopted a St. George MSU Return to School Roadmap, which is modeled on a document that was developed with feedback from epidemiologists, child infectious disease physicians, psychologists, district superintendents, and school leaders to help plan for a safe, efficient, and equitable return to school.  We adapted the document to better address the unique needs, structure, setting, and demographics of our school-community. 

As part of our roadmap, six working groups will focus on the following key areas as we plan for next year: (1) Facilities & Transportation, (2) Operations & Communications, (3) Instruction, (4) High School & Postsecondary, (5) Technology, and (6) Wellness.  Each working group will elect a representative to sit on the Return to School Committee, which will coordinate the work of the subcommittees and develop a comprehensive return-to-school plan for the School Board’s review and approval. 

This will be a community effort.  During the spring and summer, working groups will reach out to students, families, staff, town officials, and community members and organizations for input, feedback, guidance, and advice.  We recognize that the process is as important – if not more important – than the final plan.  In our planning, we will prioritize transparency and be honest about what we know and don’t know.  We will make difficult decisions that consider student, staff, and community health; the costs, benefits, and potential disruption resulting from social distancing and other strategies to mitigate the risk of viral spread during the school day; and the importance of classroom-based learning to students’ academic growth, social development, and overall health and wellbeing. 

There will be many difficult decisions, but we will make them together, as a school community.  We will emerge from this stronger having faced this crisis together, as a community, with compassion and courage.  Some things will look different in the fall.  However, some things will remain the same.  Who we are – our commitment to our kids, community, and one another – will remain constant.  We will remain Dragon Strong. 

Sincerely,

Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent

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Friday, May 8

Dear St. George School Community,

We have weathered another week of remote learning and hopefully been bolstered by some signs of spring.  We return to our topic of health and wellness with a focus on stress management.  As a society, we continue to make strides in our ability to talk about and adequately support individuals and families facing mental health challenges.  The fear and uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, along with the challenges of social distancing, isolation, and major disruptions in family routines and systems can intensify or bring on feelings of anxiety, grief, anger, and depression.  This is normal.  From the “I don’t want to do this” to the “What if’s” from the “I miss it when we used to . . .” to the “You’ve got to be kidding me” - these thoughts and feelings are normal and deserve some airtime in our busy, complex lives.  

Whether in ourselves or within our kids, it is important to identify and acknowledge the strong emotions that may surface during this time.  For younger children, this may simply mean talking about our different feelings (sad, mad, worried, scared, angry) and letting them know that feelings change.  For older children and ourselves, taking the time to scale or track our emotions can be helpful.  Being able to rate a feeling a 2 or an 8 out of 10 helps us know how intense we are feeling a certain emotion and why it may be impacting the rest of our lives.  Tracking emotions lets us see that feelings usually ebb and flow throughout the day.  While we may say “I was really worried all day” or “I was depressed,” if you take the time to track those feelings you may find that there were periods of relief when the feelings were not as intense.  

There are three emotions that have become more prevalent recently - grief, stress, and anxiety.  

  • Grief: All of us, to some degree, have experienced change and loss over the past 2 months.  We have lost normal routines, rites of passages, employment, a sense of security, connections, and more.  A Harvard Business Review article, That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief, discusses the idea of anticipatory grief. This is the “feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.”  And unhealthy anticipatory grief is basically anxiety - when are minds start racing about all the things that might happen or could happen.  

  • Stress: It is important to recognize the difference between stress and anxiety.  Stress is usually triggered by an external event or experience.  Lisa Damour, author of Under Pressure, sees stress in three different categories - life events, daily hassles, and chronic stress.  Stress can often be a positive force in our lives, but when it “exceeds what a person can absorb or benefit from,” then it becomes unhealthy.  We have experienced multiple life events (disruption, job loss, no school…) that have created new daily hassles (I’m looking at you remote learning) and these stressors have not abated.  We continue to live in a very different world, but there are lots of concrete strategies to combat stress.  But first a word about anxiety.    

  • Anxiety: So, if stress is the reaction to external events, anxiety is the internal reaction to that stress.  Anxiety is often associated with panic, fear, and dread and it is normal to occasionally experience anxiety.  However, when these feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger, or last a long time, it may be time to seek more support as these feelings and experiences may indicate an emerging or underlying anxiety disorder.  People with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.  They may also have repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes, which we commonly call panic attacks.  

So, why all this talk about stress and anxiety?  Here are some statistics.  According to the Child Mind Institute, health-care providers have seen a 17% increase of anxiety in children over the past 10 years. And even though anxiety will affect about 30% of all children at some time in their lives, more than 80% will never receive care for it. Based on data collected from the National Survey of Children’s Health for ages 6 to 17, researchers found a 20% increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012. Nearly a third of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime, according to the National Institutes of Health, with the incidence among girls (38%) far outpacing that among boys (26%).  Now mind you, this was all long before coronavirus entered our collective lives.  

With all of these intense and potentially disruptive emotions circulating in ourselves, our children, and our family members, what are some concrete strategies to address the grief, stress and anxiety?  

  • Take the time to categorize things into spheres of control - What can I control?  What is out of my control?  Focus your energy on the things you can control.  

  • Help kids make a list of the things that have changed versus the things that have stayed the same.

  • Mindfulness - come into the present.  Mindful.org defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”  If we are truly in the present moment then we can’t be worrying about the future or fretting about the past.  There are tons of resources on the web about mindfulness (or ask a St. George 2nd grader who practiced mindfulness in class this year).  They were exploring all types of mindfulness with their senses.  

  • Limit media exposure

  • Stay connected with family and friends

  • Maintain routines - sleep, eating, work, play.  Routines can give us a sense of the control we are missing.  

  • Get outside and be active

  • Check in with your senses during the day.  Here’s a suggestion from Elisha Goldstein:  

    • To ease your worried mind, try the three-by-three practice. Notice three things that you can see, three things that you can hear, and three things that you can feel. Or, experiment with what works for you: Expand the practice to all five senses, or bring your attention to one sense at a time.

Here are some additional resources that may be helpful for you and your family.  

In addition, we want to make sure that you all are aware that the St. George Community Development Corporation is helping individuals connect with counseling services.  If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious and it is interfering with your day-to-day life or if you simply need to talk and connect with someone, please consider calling 207-372-2193 for more information.  

We hope your family is able to find ways of incorporating health and wellness into your daily routines. Our school-community is committed to providing support services to students and families.  Please do not hesitate to reach out.  

Be Well.  Be Safe.  Be Dragon Strong.  

Best,

 

Autumn Belajonas, School Nurse (a.belajonas@stgeorgemsu.org)

Amy Hufnagel, School-wide Behavior Interventionist (a.hufnagel@stgeorgemsu.org)

Stephanie Simmons, School Social Worker (s.simmons@stgeorgemsu.org)



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Friday, April 17 

Dear Families,

We received over 80 responses to the St. George Family Remote Learning Survey.  The responses provided a glimpse into the struggles and uncertainty that we are facing as a community.  Many parents spoke of the challenge of keeping their children engaged, motivated, and learning.  They shared the struggle of trying to be the teacher and parent while balancing the needs of siblings and the demands of work.  Parents talked about the amount of screen time that remote learning requires and difficulties keeping track of assignments and navigating online learning platforms.  Many of you spoke of loss – the loss of a “normal school life” that includes connections with classmates and teachers, a consistent daily routine, and “everything that comes with being a student at St. George School.” 

The survey results also made clear that while the pandemic and extended school closure affect all of us, those effects differ from family to family.  Some parents said their children needed more work while others expressed feeling overwhelmed.  Many families supported moving to a 4-day remote learning school week, however, some said that this would result in a loss of structure and routine and present a real hardship for their family.  One parent loved being more involved in their child’s learning while another said “[e]veryday is a fight” trying to get their child to “sit down and do school work.”

Your stories and feedback – shared through this survey and through emails, phone calls, and conversations – were essential in shaping decisions about how to approach the remainder of the school year.  I recognize that these decisions will provide relief for some parents and cause others anxiety.  I know that the hardest decisions often don’t have a “right” answer.  These decisions require us to listen, reflect, and clearly communicate our choices and rationales.  Ultimately, we do what we believe is best and remain true to our core values, which, in this case, is doing everything we can to support, care for, and educate our children.

On Wednesday night, after listening and reflecting on feedback from staff and families – and in close consultation with the Leadership Team and administration – the School Board made the following decisions:

  • After April Vacation, we will move to 4-day remote learning weeks.  Families will have the option to use Fridays as a screen-free day or a time to catch up on assignments.  Teachers will use Fridays to meet virtually with their teams, review student progress, research remote learning resources, and prepare for the following week.  Some classroom Crews may meet on Friday mornings.  Teachers will reach out with more information after April vacation.
  • Academic remote learning instruction will end on Friday, May 29, however, the last day of school remains Wednesday, June 17Crews will continue to meet through June and we will focus on Crew activities, social-emotional learning and wellbeing, and staying connected with our students.  We hope this will reduce some of the stress associated with completing academic assignments while still providing students with a virtual classroom community, connection with classmates and teachers, and social-emotional support.
  • Food delivery and social work services will continue through June 17.   Food delivery will continue into June and the School Board is exploring options to continue food service through the summer.  Student social work services provided by Stephanie Simmons and Amy Hufnagel will continue through June as well.  Stephanie and Amy are also collaborating with Beckie Delaney and the Parents Group to set times when parents can meet virtually; share their experiences, joys, and struggles; and offer one another support.
  • We will celebrate our 8th grade students and high school seniors.  Teachers, staff, and parents have begun discussions about creative ways to celebrate our 8th graders and graduating seniors.  We realize that these classes have lost more than most due to the school closures. However, we are a creative and caring community.  Together, we’ll figure out new ways to celebrate and commemorate these important milestones. 
  • We will monitor the situation.  Perhaps conditions will change before June 17 and health authorities will signal that small groups may gather if they maintain social distancing.  If this were to occur, we would explore whether it was practicable and safe to hold some small group Crew activities on the school grounds.  In this scenario, perhaps one teacher’s Crew would gather outside of the school on Monday, another teacher’s Crew on Tuesday, and so on.
  • Math Camp.  We hope to be able to hold Math Camp in August.  Given the disruption to students’ learning caused by the pandemic and school closure, Math Camp has never been more important.  At Math Camp, we can begin to address the gaps in students’ learning caused by the extended school closure.
  • Kindergarten Registration.  If you are a St. George resident and have a child who will be 5 years old on or before October 15, 2020, you are invited to register your student for kindergarten. To start this process, please call School Administrative Assistant Jan Letourneau at 372-6312 or email her at j.letourneau@stgeorgemsu.org.  Kindergarten screening and open house will take place in August - dates to be announced later this spring or in the summer.

I began this letter noting the themes of struggle and loss that came through in the Family Remote Learning Survey.  There were other themes however – themes of gratitude, hope, solidarity, and strength.  One parent wrote the following, "I have been blown away by how responsive teachers have been. It has been unreal how supported we have felt through this process without judgment. I was very stressed when this all became a reality but as the days turned into weeks I have realized that our kids’ teachers are engaging and supporting our kids more than ever and it means the world to us."

We are all in this together and - together - we will get through this. If you need help, please let us know.  If you struggle with any aspect of remote learning or the decisions made about how to finish the school year, tell us and, together, we will figure it out.  We will be with you every step of the way and after this has passed – and it will pass – we will emerge stronger for having faced this crisis with compassion, courage, and a relentless commitment to our children and community.

Sincerely,

Mike Felton, St. George MSU

m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org

207.372.6312 (school)

207.542.6394 (cell)

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Wednesday, April 8 at 8:30 p.m.

Dear Families,

Yesterday evening, the Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Mankins, with the support of the Governor, recommended that schools “begin to plan to replace classroom/group instruction with remote/distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.”  In her letter, the Commissioner, recognized the profound impact that this will have on students, educators, and families. 

We have become all too familiar with those impacts over the past few weeks.  Parents have been forced to navigate new technologies and online learning tools, connect and problem-solve with teachers, and try to find the space, time, bandwidth, and energy to help their children stay focused and engaged with learning.  School staff have had to figure out how to deliver food, supplies, social work services, and education to students while establishing online classroom communities and figuring out – along with parents and families – new online learning programs and tools.  It has not been easy.  It has not been perfect.  However, as a school-community - students, staff, family, and community members - we reinvented public education in the span of several weeks.  And we did all of this during a national emergency that disrupted almost every aspect of our lives.  That is a remarkable accomplishment and was possible because – despite social distancing, stay-at-home orders, uncertainty, and fear – we stood together and took care of our kids and one another.

Now we need to (1) make remote learning sustainable for students, families and staff and (2) begin planning to help our students successfully transition back to school when that time arrives.  To help us achieve these goals, I will share as much information as I can while recognizing the unknowns and things that we still need to figure out.  On behalf of the staff and School Board, I want to encourage families to fill out this survey so your voices and experiences can inform the decisions and shape the plans that still need to be made.

Below are some specific steps that we will be taking – or will consider taking – to help improve the remote learning experience for everyone involved and prepare for next year:

  • Monday, April 13, will be a teacher workshop day and there will be no remote learning classes on that day.  Teachers will spend the day reviewing the many remote learning resources that are now available, assessing our current distance learning practices, working virtually with their teams, and developing plans for the remainder of the school year.  Students can take the day to catch up on any missed work or just step away from screens and get outside!
  • On Wednesday, April 15, the School Board will meet using Zoom to discuss a 4-day remote learning week with 1 day every week being used for teachers to plan, prep, and engage in professional development.  If we choose to go with this model, it could be structured so students have regular remote learning classes Monday through Thursday.  On Friday morning, students might check-in with their teachers and Crews and then be free for the rest of the day to catch up on work or get away from screens for awhile.  After the Crew meetings, teachers would spend the rest of the day meeting with their teams, preparing for the following week’s lessons, and working to improve the remote learning experience for students and families.
  • We will probably not be returning to school this year.  Given the ongoing pandemic, along with the Governor’s and Commissioner’s recommendations, I do not think we will be returning to school this year.  However, before a final decision is made at the Wednesday, April 15 School Board meeting, we want to hear from more families.  Please fill out this survey and let us know about your experience with remote learning.
  • At the April 15 meeting, the School Board will also discuss whether we should end remote learning prior to the official last day of school, Thursday, June 18.  We want remote learning to be a positive experience for students, staff, and families that keeps students engaged and learning while providing some structure and routine.  We do not want this to be a source of stress and worry for families who are already dealing with so much.  Your input on the survey will be very important as we consider how long to continue remote learning.
  • Even if remote learning ends before the official last day of school in June, we will continue to provide food delivery for all children living in St. George for the remainder of the school year and, if necessary for the wellbeing of our community, throughout the summer as well.  If remote learning ends prior to June 18, teachers and school staff will keep working.  Staff would spend the majority of their time planning for next year to ensure that we have programs and supports in place to identify and address any gaps in learning.  We also recognize the incredible stress that families are currently experiencing and want to have a clear plan to address students’ health and wellness needs (i.e., physical and mental health, social-emotional wellbeing, and food security).   However, if we end remote learning before mid-June, teachers have discussed maintaining a connection with students through regular Crew meetings, activities, and check-ins.
  • We are here for our high school students!  The High School Transition Working Group is monitoring the impact of school closures on our students in grades 9-12 and is ready to provide support, assist with communication, and help in any way that we can.  For more information, please contact School Social Worker Stephanie Simmons (s.simmons@stgeorgemsu.org).

We are in this together and - together - we will get through this.   I have no doubt of that.  Given what I’ve seen from this school and community over the past few weeks, I’m convinced that we’ll come out stronger on the other side.  We’ll know that when faced with real adversity, we stood together for our kids, community, and one another.  We have a long road ahead, but we will walk it together. 

Stay healthy.  Stay connected.  Stay Dragon Strong.

 

Mike Felton, St. George MSU

m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org

207.372.6312 (school)

207.542.6394 (cell)

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Friday, April 3 at 3:00 p.m.

Dear St. George Community,

As week 3 of remote learning comes to an end, we hope this letter finds you well amidst the uncertainty that exists in our world today.  In an effort to help St. George families stay strong and healthy, we would like to share some thoughts and resources for maintaining physical health.  Many of these ideas apply whether we are in crisis mode or not, but it can be helpful to remember the basics. So, let’s talk about 4 key areas that families can focus on to maintain healthy bodies and immune systems:  (1) Healthy Eating, (2) Exercise, (3) Sleep, and (4) Stress Management.

#1 Healthy Eating - It’s health class 101.  A healthy diet provides necessary nutrients for body maintenance, gives us energy for the day, improves our mood, and helps keep our immune systems strong.  This means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and lots of water - stay hydrated! At the same time, it is also important to remember that it’s not the end of the world if your child eats mac and cheese for five days in a row.  With certain foods challenging to get at the market, along with less frequent market trips, our cupboards and refrigerators might look different these days. And that’s okay.  The article below about the challenge of feeding kids does a great job recognizing that you may be way too stressed to cook a meal right now.  Less variety for several weeks will not have long term effects on children’s health.  

Finally, we need to remember that food has the power to connect us.  For some, making a special treat is a family tradition. For others, sitting at the table with family is a time to reconnect and put the rest of the world on pause.  So, drink lots of water, throw some fruits and veggies in there when you can, and indulge once in a while if you want. Here are a few helpful links:  

#2 Sleep - Are you feeling like sleep is more elusive than ever?  You are exhausted from the day, but laying in bed at night and can’t turn your brain off?  You are not alone. We were a nation struggling with sleep issues prior to the coronavirus and now, with increased stress and anxiety, getting a restful night of sleep can be challenging.  We encourage you to keep trying and to also make sure children are getting the necessary amount of sleep.  

Each family finds its own routines.  Maybe you are all night owls and not having to get to school by 8 AM is a welcome relief.  Maybe you are up before the sun and have your kids fed, dressed, and ready to go at 8 AM. Either way, we encourage you to settle into a schedule that works for your family and includes bedtimes and adequate time for rest and sleep.   How much sleep should a 7 year old be getting? Check out the National Sleep Foundation Recommendations.  

Sleep is as important to our bodies as food and exercise.  According to Why Sleep is Essential for Health posted in Medical News Today, “Sleep helps the body repair, regenerate, and recover. The immune system is no exception to this relationship. Some research shows how better sleep quality can help the body fight off infection.” This is a time when we want to keep our immune systems as strong as possible.  

So remember to turn off those screens, do some self-care, give yourself time to wind down, and if you need more ideas on how to get some better ZZZZs, check out these Healthy Sleep Tips.  

#3 Exercise - From decreasing risks of certain diseases, to strengthening your bones, from helping  maintain a healthy weight, to having a healthy heart - trying to summarize all the benefits which exercise provides could be its own 3 page letter.  Let’s focus on one specific benefit - exercise improves your mood.  Now that we have been asked to stay at home, our abodes have become more stressful, chaotic, and frustrating environments.  Hitting the pause button to engage in physical exercise may be just what you and your family need. Here are some suggestions either for you to do independently or to engage in with your family.  

#4 Managing Stress - So in practicing what we preach, we are going to hold off on delving into stress management until next week.  Focusing on exercise, sleep, and nutrition seem like enough goals for the time being! Hmmm...given all of our stress levels, maybe we should have started with stress management.  Oh, well - next week!  

We hope your family is able to find ways of incorporating health and wellness into your daily routines. Our school-community is committed to providing support services to students and families.  Please do not hesitate to reach out.  

Be Well.  Be Safe. Be Dragon Strong.  

Best,

Autumn Belajonas, School Nurse (a.belajonas@stgeorgemsu.org)

Amy Hufnagel, School-wide Behavior Interventionist (a.hufnagel@stgeorgemsu.org)

Stephanie Simmons, School Social Worker (s.simmons@stgeorgemsu.org)


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Sunday, March 29 at 4:30 p.m.

Dear Families,

The mission of our school-community, put simply, is to do whatever it takes to ensure that every single student thrives and to contribute to the vitality and resilience of the Town of St. George.  Entering our third week of remote learning, the entire staff and I want to reaffirm our commitment to our mission and the students, families, and community of St. George. Though we had a limited amount of time to prepare for the unprecedented challenges facing all schools, with our core values guiding us, the transition overall has been a success.  

That said, our success with remote learning would have been impossible if not for the commitment you have made as parents and guardians to stretch beyond your normal roles and routines.  The data and numbers make this point in dramatic fashion -over 2000 visits from the 103 parents connected to K-5 SeeSaw classes since going live. Though Google Classroom, which is used by 6th-8th grade, does not have the same tracking mechanism, I am certain that we would see similar numbers from middle level parents.  Recognizing how disruptive this national emergency has been to your daily lives makes your efforts even more remarkable. You are all experiencing this in real-time while dealing with a host of challenges and stressors. Our staff applaud you and want you to know that we are with you every step of the way.

As you are probably aware, our school closure has been extended to April 27th and could potentially continue beyond that date. For the first two weeks of the school closure and remote learning, our goal was to get everyone connected and familiar with our new learning platforms.  Now we move into the next phase that is focused on maintaining student engagement; improving the delivery of instructional and support services based on student, family, and staff feedback; and working with community partners to help address the health and wellness needs of families.

PHASE 2 - “Keeping the Ball Rolling”

On a typical day at St. George School our teachers use their classroom and Crew time to discuss the importance of our habits for success and how they affect academic and character growth.  In many ways, these habits are foundational for all learning that takes place in our building. Never has there been a time when a student's habits for success have been more critical. Therefore, in the midst of all this remote learning, we will continue to place a high value on communicating and reinforcing these habits.  There are two habits in particular that will help guide us during this challenging time: Responsibility and Perseverance.  And since we - the school, parents, and students - are all a part of one giant St. George Crew, here is some guidance for what we can do to address these habits during our extended school closure.

Phase 3 - Reflecting and the Return to Normalcy”

As a staff, we recognize that every family is going to be dealing with varying levels of stress over the next few weeks which is why focusing primarily on habits and connecting with our Crews - rather than simply focusing on work completion - is so critical.  We acknowledge that there will be some days when families will just need to take a break from instruction and from computer screens altogether. There will be days when logins won’t work, an assignment doesn’t load, the internet is slow and other unforeseen obstacles.  We understand. We will be experiencing the same frustrations throughout this process. If we trust each other, commit to our habits and come together with our Crews - rather than just focusing on a specific instructional outcome - then we will be more than ready for Phase 3.  

We don’t know when the school will reopen at this point, but we will be prepared and ready when that happens.  The future will look and feel very much like it always has: St. George School will “do whatever it takes to ensure that every student thrives.”  Staying connected with each other through Crew activities, google hangouts, zoom meetings, lessons, emails and assignments will mean that we will have a better idea of what instruction needs to be prioritized when the crisis has passed and normal returns.  

There will be a day when every student will once again walk through the doors of St. George School and return to classes, recesses, community meetings, field trips and more.  They will be carrying with them the memories of this pandemic. Our hope is that they will also be carrying with them a new appreciation for their families, their community, their school, and a deeper understanding of the third habit for success - Collaboration - achieved when we all worked together to the best of our abilities and found meaning, strength, and community in a time of uncertainty.  

Sincerely,

Instructional Administrator Adam Bullard and Team Leaders Meghan Smith (K-2), Jaime MacCaffray (3-5), Josh McPhail (6-8), Amy Hufnagel (Special Services), Amy Palmer (Unified Arts), and Diana Brickel (Ed Techs)



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Saturday, March 21 at 7:00 p.m.

Dear Families,

This week, I witnessed so many selfless acts of service, generosity, and kindness.  I watched as time and time again people put their neighbor and community first.  Food service and transportation staff prepared and delivered over 150 breakfasts and about 175 lunches.  Teachers and ed techs – while learning a variety of new programs and technologies – connected with students and began providing instruction and support services.  Students and their families set up spaces for learning in their homes, upending established schedules and routines.  We faced many challenges – from internet connectivity to social distancing, from concerns about food security to simply missing our friends and colleagues.  Last week was not easy and it certainly wasn’t perfect.  But that’s the point – despite the hardship, worry, and uncertainty, we stood together as a community and got the job done.  We’ll do it again next week and however long it takes until this pandemic is past - that’s what makes us a community and that’s what makes us Dragons.

We still have a long way to go and plenty of challenges ahead.  I want to provide an update to our families so we can continue to coordinate our efforts and work together to get through this and take care of one another.  On Sunday, March 15, the Governor declared a state of civil emergency, lasting at least 30 days, and recommended that all Maine schools cease classroom-based instruction. As of today, at 1:30 p.m., Maine has 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with the majority of those cases (41) concentrated in Cumberland County.  Currently, there are no confirmed cased of the virus in Knox County.   Maine is experiencing “moderate community transmission” of the virus, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (U.S. CDC) defines as, “Widespread and/or sustained transmission with high likelihood or confirmed exposure within communal settings with potential for rapid increase in suspected cases.”  For all of these reasons, St. George School will be closed through Friday, April 24, in order to help protect our students, families, and community.

As we face this challenge together, I want to be as transparent as possible.  Based on the information I’ve read; conversations with educators, health professionals, and state officials; and the manner in which this virus has affected other states and nations, I feel that we need to prepare for a scenario in which school closures in Maine extend beyond April vacation and, possibly, through the remainder of the school year.  On Friday afternoon, I met with representatives from the School Board, St. George Education Association, Select Board, Town Office, Emergency Medical Services, St. George Community Development Corporation and school administrators, teachers, and staff to discuss the possibility of, and begin planning for, a school closure lasting beyond April vacation.  No decision has been made yet, but we are preparing for a closure that may last through the end of the school year.  Before making such a decision, we would be in close consultation with state and public health officials.

Information and communication will be essential over the weeks to come.  The U.S. CDC and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) remain the best resources for learning about COVID-19.  On Friday, March 20, Maine Calling – a Maine Public Radio program – interviewed Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine CDC.  Dr. Shah shared the latest information on COVID-19 cases in Maine, the importance of social distancing and maintaining human connection, as well as information about testing and treatment.  The interview is available online; please listen to at least the first 25 minutes of the podcast. 

For however long this closure lasts, school staff will be here for our students, family, and community.  As the school sign now reads, “WE’RE HERE FOR YOU - WE ARE DRAGON STRONG!”  Below is information about services the school and other organizations will be providing to students and families during the school closure:

  • Daily food delivery for ALL children (18 and younger) living in St. George. St. George families can sign up for daily food delivery for ALL children living in their household – this now includes young children who have not yet entered kindergarten and all of our high school students.  All meals will be provided for free, regardless of whether you qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.  You can sign up children for breakfast and lunch 1 week at a time by using https://foodorder.stgeorgemsu.org/ or by calling the school at 372.6312.  You will need to submit 1 form per child and specify the location that the food should be dropped off for the entire week.  
  • K-8 remote instruction.  We will continue to provide mainstream, special education, and Title I instructional services to students through online tools as well as work packets that can be sent home on school buses and vans.  During the closure, we will follow the school calendar.  This means, for example, that instruction will not occur during breaks (such as April vacation, which is from Monday, April 20 to Friday, April 24) or on holidays.  However, we will continue to deliver meals for children during April vacation.
  • Internet connectivity and technology.  We continue to work with families to ensure that all students have reliable internet access.  We deployed 5 Kajeet mobile hotspots to families last week.  However, we are aware that the Kajeets do not work in all locations so we are exploring alternate solutions.  If you do not have reliable internet access, please contact Technology Director Paul Meinersmann through email (p.meinersmann@stgeorgemsu.org) or by calling the school (372.6312).  Together, we will figure this out.
  • High school students.  Next week, we will begin reaching out to all of our high school students to check-in, see how we can help, and make sure that they have what they need to continue their education remotely.  If you have questions or concerns related to our current high school students, please contact School Social Worker Stephanie Simmons (s.simmons@stgeorgemsu.org) or call the school at 372.6312.

St. George School is a community school and the heart and strength of our school is the community of St. George.  Our mission is simple – to do whatever it takes to make sure that every single student thrives and to contribute to the vitality of the Town of St. George.  That mission has never been as important – or clear – as it is today.  Our school-community will continue to rise to the challenge, take care of one another, and - above all else - care for our children.  That is our mission and that’s what makes us Dragons.

Sincerely,

 

Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent

m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org

207.372.6312 (school)

207.542.6394 (cell)

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Sunday, March 15 at 1:30 p.m.

Please find below key points from a somewhat lengthy email.  I encourage everyone to read this entire message and reach out if you have any questions or concerns:

  • The St. George School building will be closed for at least 2 weeks beginning tomorrow, Monday, 3/16.
  • Families can stop by tomorrow, Monday, 3/16, to pick up devices, books, and other student items.
  • Instructional and social work services will be delivered remotely beginning on Tuesday, 3/17.
  • Food service will continue.  Families can sign up 1 week at a time to have breakfast/lunch meals delivered to their homes.  Delivery will begin tomorrow.  Sign up for meals here:  https://foodorder.stgeorgemsu.org.  The cost of meals for students will remain the same.  Students who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals will continue to receive meals at no cost.

Dear Families,

Let me say first that I have never been so grateful to live in St. George and work at St. George MSU.  Last night, at 5:45 p.m., representatives from the School Board, St. George Education Association, Select Board, Town Office, Emergency Medical Services, and St. George Community Development Corporation met with school administrators, teachers, and staff to discuss the possibility, ramifications, and plans for an extended school closure to stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect not only our students, but our entire community.  The meeting was called with less than an hour’s notice and about 15 people showed up.  School staff has been planning for this eventuality for about two weeks now – with preparations intensifying last week.  I was able to hear from everyone and share my thoughts.  This followed day-long communications and conversations with local-area superintendents and a video conference with the Commissioner of Education and superintendents from across the state.  State leaders have consistently told superintendents that this is a local decision and we all have to make decisions based on factors unique to our community.  While I have concerns with this approach, that is our reality. 

Based on the communications I’ve had with state and public health and emergency management officials over the past several weeks, conversations with other superintendents in our region, reviewing the latest information about the virus and its impact on communities, and the preparations our school-community has taken to deliver services to our students and families during an extended closure, I am announcing that St. George School will be closed for at least 2 weeks (Monday, 3/16 – Friday, 3/27).  We will reassess the situation during the second week.   

I recognize the disruption that this will cause to our working parents, families, and community.  However, because there are still so many unanswered questions about the virus, I feel that the risks of contributing to the spread of the virus by continuing school are too great.   I have reviewed and discussed with educators, health professionals, and state officials the guidance provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Maine Center for Disease Control.  The takeaway message from this review and these discussions is that much about this virus remains unknown.  I’ve also read several articles discussing research about the possible advantages of quick, decisive actions to prevent the spread of the virus before it takes hold in your community.  

None of these articles provide definitive answers and all resources currently require communities and school leaders to weigh many different factors when considering school closure.  The U.S. CDC and Maine CDC remain the best resources for learning about COVID-19.

Delivering Services to Students & Families During the School Closure

Let me also stress this: school staff and community partners will be here for our students and families throughout the school closure.  Some staff will be in the school building during the closure while others may work remotely.  If you have questions or concerns about anything – be it food services, social work services, food security – please call the school (372.6312). We are working closely with the St. George Community Development Corporation to help ensure that we can meet families’ needs over the extended school closure.  You can contact the Community Development Corporation by calling 372.2193 or emailing info@stgeorgecommunity.org.

  • High School Students: All high school bus runs are cancelled while St. George School is closed.  Oceanside High School, Camden Hills Regional High School and Lincoln Academy have announced extended school closures beginning on Monday, 3/16.
  • Student Devices, Books, and Other Items at School: The school will be open tomorrow (Monday, 3/16) for families to stop by the school and pick up necessary items such as laptops, books, and coats and boots in cubbies and lockers.  We can also deliver these items to your house.  If you need items delivered to your home, please call the school (372.6312) or email your child’s teacher or Instructional Administrator Adam Bullard (a.bullard@stgeorgemsuorg).  Please do NOT come to school if you have recently traveled out of state or if you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms.  While in the school – and at all times and places over the coming weeks –  please practice social distancing and other preventative measures, i.e., avoiding close contact with other people, washing hands frequently with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and staying home if you are sick. 
  • Daily Food Delivery:  You can sign up your St. George School student for breakfast and lunch 1 week at a time by using this online survey or by calling the school at 372.6312.  Breakfast and lunch are available to all St. George School students.  You will need to submit 1 form per student. Once you have submitted the form, you will have the opportunity to submit another response for additional St. George students.  You will need to specify the location that the food should be dropped off for the entire week.  Meals – including breakfast and lunch – will be loaded on school buses and vans around 9 a.m. and then delivered.  We don’t have delivery times yet but should get a sense for that as we move forward.  School staff will leave the meals on a house’s walkway for the family to pick up; school staff will not enter the household.  For this week (3/16-3/20), please submit your online survey today (Sunday) or tomorrow morning.  You can also call the school tomorrow morning to sign up for breakfast/lunch this week.  For next week (3/23-3/27), please submit the online form or call the school by Friday (3/20) at 3 p.m.  The cost of meals for students will remain the same.  Students who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals will continue to receive meals at no cost.
  • Instruction.  Instructional services will begin for students on Tuesday, 3/17.  Individual teachers will reach out to students and families with more information.  An overview of our Pandemic Instructional Response Plan can be found here.  K-5 teachers will be primarily utilizing an app called Seesaw and Middle Level (6th-8th) will be focusing on Google Classroom, Google Docs, and the Middle Level Homework Log.  Teachers will have the option to send work packets home to students as well.  Work packets and instructional items will be delivered to students’ homes using school buses and vans. 
    • IMPORTANT: Every student, grades K-8, will have the option to take a school device home.  Any families that do not have reliable internet access should contact Technology Director Paul Meinersmann through email (p.meinersmann@stgeorgemsu.org) or by calling the school (372.6312).  We have access to some mobile internet devices and can also send work packets home.
    • Special Education Services and Title I Services: Special Education and Title I teachers, collaborating closely with classroom teachers, will reach out to students and families this week to determine the best way to deliver specialized instruction and services.  This may be in the form of remote learning though Seesaw or Google Classroom, work packets sent home, phone conversations with students and parents, etc. 
  • Social Work Services. Stephanie Simmons, the School Social Worker, and Amy Hufnagel, the School-wide Behavior Interventionist, will continue to provide services to students.  This may include phone calls, emails, or a video conference through an online platform such as Zoom.  We will continue to help connect families to community resources such as the St. George Community Development Corporation.  

We are all in this together.  Our greatest resource is – and always has been – our community.  It is in times like these that you learn the true character of an individual, a community, and a people.  Our school-community will rise to this challenge, take care of one another, and - above all else - care for our children.  That is our mission and that’s what makes us Dragons. 

Sincerely,

 

Mike Felton, St. George MSU

m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org

207.372.6312 (school)

207.542.6394 (cell



Thursday, March 12 at 10:30 p.m. 

Dear Families,

The situation with COVID-19, or the “coronavirus,” continues to rapidly develop.  The first presumptive positive test in Maine was announced earlier today.  Governor Janet Mills, based on the advice of the Maine Center for Disease Control (Maine CDC), advised that non-essential large, indoor gatherings of 250 attendees or more be postponed in order to delay a potential coronavirus outbreak and substantially reduce its spread.  The Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE), released new guidance this afternoon recommending that schools plan to, among other things, 

  • Limit (cancel or postpone) mass gatherings that are not essential;
  • Postpone any non-essential out-of-state or international travel; and
  • Reduce group sizes within your schools where you can: examples include classroom-based lunches, postponing assembly, cancelling or rescheduling concerts and celebrations.

At this time (9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 12), we plan to keep school open.  We recognize the disruption that school closure will cause for families, working parents, and our community.  However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and any decision to close school will be made after consultation with the Maine CDC, Maine DOE, and local and state officials. 

I want to share again some important resources that provide information about the coronavirus and actions public health agencies are taking to monitor, contain, and respond to the virus

  • U.S. CDC – includes information on what people need to know about the virus and provides national and international updates
  • Maine CDC – additional information on the coronavirus and updates specific to Maine
  • Maine CDC Fact Sheet – provides quick answers to common questions about the coronavirus

Based on this latest guidance from the Maine CDC and Maine DOE, discussions with other superintendents, and monitoring of rapidly developing situation, St. George School is taking the following steps in addition to the steps described in the Friday, March 6 notice to families:

  • Parent conferences scheduled for tomorrow (Friday, 3/13) are cancelled.  As planned, students will be dismissed at 12:30 p.m.  Staff will use the afternoon to receive training and continue to develop plans to provide instruction to students in the event of an extended school closure.  
  • Pandemic Instructional Response Plan. Teachers and staff have already invested substantial thought, time, and effort, designing ways to deliver instructions and services to students if school is closed for an extended period of time. You can find our Pandemic Instructional Response Plan here.  Teachers will be sending more detailed information home to families over the next week.  Our Pandemic Operational Response plan is here.  Both plans will be updated and adapted to meet the needs of our community. 
  • All staff trips to off-site workshops, trainings, and conferences are cancelled until further notice.
  • All field trips are cancelled until further notice.
  • All school-based events involving large crowds are postponed until further notice.  This includes Math Night, 8th Grade March Madness, and the Mussel Ridge Basketball Tournament.  The school will reschedule Math Night and March Madness and the Parks & Recreation Committee is working to reschedule Mussel Ridge. 
  • Most grades will each lunch in their classrooms.  Lunch will continue at the regularly scheduled time, but most grades will eat lunch in their classrooms.  Larger classes, will eat lunch in the cafeteria (e.g., 2nd grade, one of our larger classes will eat lunch in the cafeteria while 3rd grade, which is smaller and usually eats with 2nd grade, will eat in their classroom).  This will help keep our students spread out and reduce the amount of time they are in large groups and gatherings.
  • Recess will continue as scheduled.  There are no changes to recess at this time.  The advantages of getting kids outside for their physical, mental, and emotional health outweigh other concerns at this point.
  • We are planning to offer St. George School students breakfast and lunch in the event of any extended closure.  Families will be able to sign up for breakfast and lunch 1 week at a time using an online form or by calling in.  More details on menus and sign-up procedures for breakfast and lunch in the event of an extended school closure will be shared soon.  If school is closed for an extended period of time, we are planning to deliver breakfast & lunch to students’ homes using our buses and vans.  Food will be left outside of the house.  Any St. George student can sign up for breakfast and lunch.  This delivery system could also give us the ability to deliver work packets to students.  Students will not hand in any worksheets delivered to their homes.  However, they could take a picture of the worksheet using a mobile phone or other device and send that picture to their teacher.   
  • We will communicate with families regularly through email and the school websitePlease make sure that the school has your most up-to-date contact information. 
  • Keep your child home if they are sick.  This has never been more important.  Based on available evidence from the U.S. CDC, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.  However, we want to do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus should it reach our community and protect students, staff members, and – especially – children and adults with underlying medical conditions.  
  • School-wide Behavior Interventionist Amy Hufnagel, School Social Worker Stephanie Simmons, School Nurse Autumn Belajonas, and Instructional Administrator Adam Bullard will work with classroom teachers to support students who are experiencing anxiety about the spread of COVID-19.   Some parents have shared that their children have expressed fear of attending school or being around other students.  We need to counter fear with information, facts, and - above all - a message that we are all in this together and will do whatever it takes to care for our children. 
  • We are in this togetherThat is the most important message.  We are community.  We don’t run or turn inward in fear during challenging times.  We rise up and take care of one another.  It is in times like these that you learn the true character of an individual, a community, and a people.  Our school-community will rise to this challenge, take care of one another, and - above all else - care for our children.  That is our mission and that’s what makes us Dragons

Sincerely,

 

Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent

m.felton@stgeoremsu.org



Friday, March 6, 2020 at 11:20 a.m.

Dear Families,

We wanted to provide an update concerning the steps St. George School is taking to prepare in the event our community is affected by COVID-19, also referred to as the novel coronavirus.  First, let me stress that as of 11:20 this morning, there are NO confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine.  However, to ensure that our school-community is prepared for a variety of scenarios, we are collaborating closely with the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC), Maine Department of Education (DOE), Knox County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), and local government, nonprofits, and organizations.  Our top priority is the safety, health, and wellbeing of our students, staff, families, and community.

I want to share again some important resources that provide information about the coronavirus and actions public agencies are taking to monitor, contain, and respond to the virus:

  • U.S. CDC – includes information on what people need to know about the virus and provides national and international updates
  • Maine CDC – additional information on the coronavirus and updates specific to Maine
  • Maine CDC Fact Sheet – provides quick answers to common questions about the coronavirus
  • Maine DOE– resources for schools related to the coronavirus outbreak

Here are some specific steps that St. George School is taking to prepare in the event the virus affects our community:

  • Students have been learning how to properly and effectively wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. This lesson also includes when to wash your hands, what germs are, how they enter the body, how to prevent the spread of germs and ways to keep your immune system strong.
  • All classrooms have access to either a sink with soap or hand sanitizer for hand washing.  All staff members and students have been encouraged to wash hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating.  
  • Tissues are available for all students and staff members throughout the school day.
  • The school is monitoring student and staff absences.
  • Frequently contacted surfaces and objects in the school building are disinfected and cleaned daily if not more; this includes the school transportation vehicles.
  • School staff are collaborating closely with the Maine CDC, Maine DOE, Knox County EMA, and local government, nonprofits, and organizations to develop and refine plans and protocols in the event our community is affected by the coronavirus.

We can ALL do the following to help keep our community healthy:

  • Stay home when you are sick and keep your child home if they become sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes, then dispose of the tissue. When a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow. 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds. Washing hands often under clean, running water can help prevent the spread of germs.  If you cannot wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60-95% alcohol. 
  • Sneeze in you Sleeve (below video)


Here are additional resources for parents on talking with their children about the coronavirus.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Superintendent Mike Felton (m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org) or School Nurse Autumn Belajonas (a.belajonas@stgeorgemsu.org).

Sincerely,

Autumn Belajonas, St. George School Nurse

Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent




Thursday, February 27

Dear Families,

I wanted to take a moment and provide some updates regarding concerns about the “coronavirus,” officially called the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).   According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (U.S. CDC) and Maine Center for Disease Control (Maine CDC), “at this time, the virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.”  Currently, the risk of coronavirus infection in Maine remains very low and Maine has no confirmed cases associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus.  Below are some resources providing more information about the coronavirus and actions public health agencies are taking to monitor, contain, and respond to the virus: 

  • U.S. CDC – includes information on what people need to know about the virus and provides national and international updates
  • Maine CDC – additional information on the coronavirus and updates specific to Maine
  • Maine CDC Fact Sheet – provides quick answers to common questions about the coronavirus

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) recently released a notice to schools regarding the coronavirus.  The DOE pointed out that the “greater risk for Mainers at this time is seasonal influenza” and stressed the following: 

The best preventive measures for all infectious diseases include

  1. washing hands thoroughly with soap and water,
  2. covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and
  3. staying home when you feel sick.

St. George School staff will continue to work closely with local health, government, and emergency management officials to monitor the situation.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me (m.felton@stgeorgemsu.org) or School Nurse Autumn Belajonas (a.belajonas@stgeorgemsu.org).

Sincerely,

Mike Felton, St. George MSU Superintendent