As schools work to protect students, faculty and staff from the highly contagious coronavirus, education officials across central Maine are announcing plans to suspend in-person classes and offer them online.

On Sunday, when public health officials announced Maine had seven confirmed and five presumptive cases of coronavirus infection, school officials from across the region sent out emails and alerts, notifying parents, students and staff members of the closures of K-12 schools.

Most closures were anticipated to last two weeks, with classes expected to resume Monday, March 30.

In their announcements, school administrators said the move to close schools, in most cases for two weeks, was the result of an abundance of caution, and aimed at keeping communities safe.

In some cases, the shutdowns were not expected to include online learning. Other school districts are taking steps to continue with classes.

The Augusta Public Schools will be closed through Sunday, March 29, with plans to reopen Monday, March 30.

In an announcement on the district’s website, officials explained that the closure is in response to the call by medical professionals to implement practices of social distancing to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. The closure is intended to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases in Maine.

Gardiner-area schools will also be closed for two weeks. School Administrative Unit 11 Superintendent Patricia Hopkins said the school board met briefly Sunday and will meet again Tuesday.

In a letter to families and caregivers posted on district’s website, Hopkins wrote that staff members will be working Monday and Tuesday to complete a deep clean of the district’s facilities, prepare for student learning and figure out how best to prepare and deliver meals to all families that would like a free bagged meal for their children during the shutdown.

Hopkins said she expects to have an update on Tuesday on the status of the district’s work. And while the announced closure is for two weeks, that will be reassessed in the coming days.

The Maranacook Area Schools — Regional School Unit 38 — announced Sunday the closure of all schools through Friday, March 27. There is no expectation of remote learning, but district officials are expected to reassess that during the shutdown.

“This is a rapidly evolving and unprecedented situation in which you can expect more information to be forthcoming on our closure, but I wanted to communicate this news to you as soon as possible so you may begin planning for child care and other concerns that will be raised by this decision,” Superintendent Jay Charette wrote in his announcement posted on the district’s website.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced Sunday that all of the state’s Catholic schools will close at least through March 29. In central Maine, these include St. John’s Catholic School in Winslow, Mount Merici Academy in Waterville and St. Michael School in Augusta.

“Parents and guardians are hearing from their respective principals regarding the distance learning procedures that have been established for their children,” Marianne Pelletier, superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools, wrote Sunday in a prepared statement.

“I am very grateful for the proactive efforts of our school administrators to have these materials and plans already in place.”

Regional School Unit 2, which includes Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth and Richmond, announced Sunday it will close for two weeks.

In her letter, Acting Superintendent Mary Paine wrote: “We will not attempt to provide structured remote learning content to students in the form of packets or online assignments at this time. This is a full school closure with no expectations for remote learning. We are experiencing highly unusual circumstances, to which families will need to respond in ways that make sense for them and that may not be known to us. We hope to ease stress on families as they adjust to this situationWe will reassess within the closure window, and if necessary more information about possible remote learning and/or return to school plans will be forthcoming. We encourage you to provide your children with opportunities to learn and practice skills at home if and when possible.” 

Regional School Unit 4, which includes Litchfield, will also close for the next two weeks. Superintendent Andrew Carlton said the district will be able to provide breakfast and lunch for students through a food program similar to the one it runs during the summer.

Officials at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, which has students from around the region, announced Sunday via email that in-person classes will be suspended until April 27. Students will be off this week and virtual learning is expected to begin March 23.

Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12 will close for two weeks. The district, based in Somerville, includes Chelsea, Windsor and Palermo.

“We will be developing plans for continuity of learning opportunities and will distribute those
plans as soon as we are adequately prepared. We hope to be in a position to offer educational
services in a few days,” Superintendent Howard Tuttle wrote in a letter to the community.

In Oakland, Superintendent Carl Gartley sent a notice out to parents Sunday informing them that schools in Regional School Unit 18, which serves Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney, will be closed until March 27.

“At that time, we will consider a decision on a potential longer closure based on the facts available,” Gartley wrote in his email.

Waterville Public Schools, as well as Maine School Administrative District 54, based in Skowhegan, and MSAD 74, based in Anson, also announced Sunday schools will be closed until March 27.

“Although we have no evidence of a direct threat locally, we are taking precautions to protect our greater Maine community,” MSAD 74 Superintendent Mike Tracy said in a letter to the community.

Erskine Academy, a private school in South China that serves students from eight surrounding towns, also posted a Facebook notice Sunday afternoon informing that the school is on a recess until March 27.

The Bingham-area schools in Regional School Unit 83/School Administrative Unit 13 and Pittsfield-area schools will also be closed for two weeks.

In other developments Sunday, the Waterville Public Schools’ food service department announced it will provide breakfast and lunch on Monday through Friday during the closure, according to Superintendent Eric Haley, who wrote in an email that the program will be modeled after the summer meals program, which serves anyone 18 or younger and may be taken off-site.

The meals can be picked up between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. at these sites in Waterville: George J. Mitchell School, Waterville Junior High School, Armory Road Housing, Home Place Housing, Chaplin Street, North Street playground, Western Avenue play area and the South End Teen Center.

In a closure announcement Sunday for the Winslow Public Schools, Superintendent Peter Thiboutot said parents and members of the staff may contact schools to make arrangements to retrieve essential items from classrooms.

During the two-week closure, parents will be able to make arrangements to pick up breakfast and lunch. While no structured online instruction will be offered, students are encouraged to explore things they enjoy learning.

Thomas College in Waterville announced Sunday that, effective immediately, all in-person instruction is suspended and remote instruction will begin March 30. All evening graduate and undergraduate courses will move to remote instruction, and all professional development offerings, both on campus and off campus are postponed until further notice.

Residence halls at the Waterville college will closed Wednesday, but students with extenuating circumstances may request to stay a bit longer.

All facility rentals and college-sponsored events scheduled through the end of the month are also being postponed.

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