SKOWHEGAN — The Maine School Administrative District 54 Board of Directors on Thursday addressed the conditions that might be necessary if students return to classrooms in the fall and received an update on the nickname-selection process.

During a meeting at the gymnasium at Skowhegan Area High School, Superintendent Jon Moody presented what the district — which includes Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield — is considering for the upcoming school year.

Jon Moody, new superintendent of Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54, updated the board Thursday on plans for school in the fall and also gave an update on the search for a new mascot. Morning Sentinel file

Moody emphasized nothing is set in stone as Maine schools await guidance from the state.

The overarching principles include safety; having students in school every day with priority given to younger students; and communication and coordination between buildings along with collaboration and feedback for the development of a reentry plan that is successful.

Involvement in this process will come from both community members and stakeholders, which make up the Collaborative Planning Team. This group is comprised of the administrative team, union leadership, district leadership team, professional development committee, crisis team, emergency operations team, parent advisory group, remote learning team and trauma informed advisory committee.

Having this large collaboration will allow for broad feedback.

While the district was working through remote learning, teachers and administrators were receiving feedback from regular check-ins with families to learn about how things were going. Teachers were given a remote learning survey at the end of the school year and will be given another in late July.

Parent surveys were sent home, and an overwhelming majority said that they would like to have their children back in school in the fall if proper sanitation and safety protocols are in place. Parents will have additional opportunities to provide feedback on opening the schools in the fall.

“We received over 1,000 submissions from parents who gave really amazing feedback in the surveys, and by and large, they want their kids back in school. … If it can be done safely, they want their kids back in school,” Moody said.

If school facilities were to reopen in the fall, Moody said several new safety protocols will be established:

• Classroom spaces scheduled with a minimum of 3 feet in social distancing. In classrooms where less than 6 feet of distancing is possible, masks or face coverings will be worn. While recognizing that this may not be plausible for younger students, the age requirement has yet to be determined.

• Masks or face coverings will be worn by students in the building during passing times.

• Hand sanitizer stations will be installed in or at each classroom, at every major entry point and at strategic locations throughout buildings across the district.

• Advanced custodial hygiene practices will be used with a focus on high-touch surfaces and building use.

• Increased education, routines and regular breaks for student/staff hygiene.

• Building entrances, offices and nursing stations adjusted to meet recommendations.

• Touchless surfaces where appropriate.

• Limiting public access to buildings, including students, teachers and volunteers.

• Removing room furnishings, including carpet surfaces and furnishings that are not easily disinfected.

Moody said administration is looking at creating signs and markings for hallways and buildings, establishing consistent traffic patterns, adjusting lunch and recess times to maximize social distancing and limit exposure between groups, and scheduling movement between classes in buildings.

“There are some things that (make it) an exciting opportunity,” Moody said. “This morning I had an administrator say that this was an exciting time because there are cool opportunities to rethink the way we provide an education for our kids.”

The district is still waiting for guidance from the state on distance learning expectations for grading and reporting, assessment and attendance. Policies and practices will be reviewed by staff and the school board.

Staff will utilize a two-way educational platform like Google Classroom or Schoology to allow for a smooth transition to remote learning should it be necessary, and laptops will be assigned for grades K-12.

In transportation, safety barriers are being installed in buses and vans, and bus routes are being revised to limit transitions and social interactions between students.

When students are on buses, they will be required to wear face masks and seats will likely be assigned. Increased sanitation practices will be in place and Z-Pass Tracking Technology will be utilized to track ridership and maximize the ability to track exposure in the event of an identified case of COVID-19.

Moody said the district is exploring all options as they wait for guidance from the state.

MASCOT SEARCH

In other business, Moody provided an update on the mascot selection process. Next week, the Support Services Committee and Education Policy and Programming Committee will review the suggestions for a new mascot. Each group will be expected to bring forward up to five options for consideration.

Though the public is welcome to attend these meetings, he said, there will not be an opportunity for them to comment.

In March, Moody told the board that 1,627 suggestion forms were received. Moody said on Thursday that administration whittled the list down to 306. At the meeting, he presented the board with a list of 147 options. The packet handed out to board members included options that were deemed inappropriate, others that were not recommended and those that were approved for consideration.

The “official” mascot selection process began Jan. 15 when paper and online suggestion forms became available. The portal was closed on Feb. 24. The process of soliciting ideas for a new team name was the start of a multi-step process introduced by the MSAD 54 board last fall after the “Indians” nickname was retired last March.

Once the suggestions are trimmed to five from each committee, the proposals will be shared with students in grades six through 12, who will be asked to provide feedback.

After that, the two committees will reconvene to review the feedback and make final recommendations to the board, which will then vote on the finalists.

The meeting also established the new administration. Moody stepped up as superintendent following Brent Colbry’s retirement last month, and Mark Hatch filled the assistant superintendent position. Lynda Quinn was voted the chairperson for the next year and Maryellen Charles was voted vice chairperson of the board.

Moody also acknowledged the budget was approved by voters on Tuesday.

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