Superintendent Brent Colbry said Thursday night a decision had yet to be made on whether Maine School Administrative District 54 will keep its schools closed for the rest of the academic year.

Colbry told the MSAD 54 board of directors that families should assume students will continue to study from home for the rest of the school year.

Colbry said things could change, however, if the state and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention change guidelines to allow students and faculty to return to school.

In a letter that will be distributed to MSAD 54 families in Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield, district administrators have outlined how they think distance learning will be structured in the coming weeks.

“Unlike a snow day, there are some unique challenges around equity that come with a closure for the remainder of the year,” the letter reads.

Assistant Superintendent Jon Moody told the board it is difficult for some families to participate in remote learning because they do not have the technology, they lack internet service or there is only one device being shared by multiple students within the same house.

“We believe it is essential that students who are working receive feedback from teachers,” the letter reads. “With the work our district has done to become trauma-informed, knowing 60-70% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and considering the clear inequities discussed above, we see no way to equitably grade our students.”

MSAD 54 administrators and teachers have decided there is no appropriate grading structure that would not negatively impact some students’ grades and, thus, their permanent academic record.

Moody said standards and policies will be developed after the April vacation for staff members to use in devising educational programs and opportunities for students.

In other matters, Colbry said MSAD 54 over the past two weeks had served about 62,000 meals, which have been delivered to children younger than 18. Breakfast and lunches are delivered to feed students throughout the week, a practice Colbry said will continue during April vacation.

Concerning the process of selecting a new school nickname and mascot, Moody said the matter is on hold while the district deals with issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Board Chairperson Lynda Quinn said after the meeting there is no timeline for when the selection process will resume, but it is likely it will not happen until the start of school in the fall.

“That is so far on the back burner now,” Quinn said. “We likely won’t have any kids (in school) to vote until fall, and we definitely want input from those kids.”

The nickname-selection process began Jan. 15 with suggestion forms being made available online and on paper. The portal, which was open until Feb. 24, produced 1,627 suggestions. So far, the list has been whittled down to 305 possible nicknames.

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