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. At this time, it’s unclear exactly when that document will be available.
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. Therefore, 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 - as it becomes available – state and federal guidance.
To guide our planning process, the School Board adopted a St. George MSU Return to School Roadmap. Our roadmap is closely modeled on a document developed by Opportunity Labs that the Maine School Management Association (MSMA) shared with superintendents several weeks ago. The document was informed by evidence-based public health and education emergency operations planning best practices and direct feedback from epidemiologists, child infectious disease physicians, psychologists, district superintendents, and school leaders to help school districts plan and implement a safe, efficient, and equitable return to school. We adapted the Opportunity Labs roadmap to better address the unique needs, structure, setting, and demographics of our school-community. A working draft of the St. George MSU Return to School Roadmap is available here.
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 well being.
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.