RSU 18 Superintendent Carl Gartley, seen here in 2019, presented the school district’s back-to-school draft plan Wednesday at the school board meeting. Morning Sentinel file photo

The superintendent of Regional School Unit 18 presented the district’s back-to-school plan at a school board meeting Wednesday, aligning it to the framework released by Gov. Janet Mills last week and detailing the three options that many of the state’s public schools are making preliminary plans for.

The board also authorized its 2020-21 school budget of $39.8 million, which voters approved by a wide margin at the primary elections July 14.

Although RSU 18, which includes the communities of Belgrade, Rome, Oakland, China and Sidney, is planning three different approaches for instruction, Superintendent Carl Gartley said the district will most likely choose hybrid learning to give parents the choice to have their children taught remotely and not require them to appear in person.

In a slideshow presentation, Gartley specified how the district’s back-to-school committee has come up with a system similar to that released by Mills and the state Department of Education last week.

“We have developed a green, yellow, red system,” Gartley said. “Green meaning all of our students are going to be in school, yellow meaning we will have some sort of hybrid where some of the students will be here and some of the students will not … and then red would mean we would have our students remote.”

The state’s school reopening plan also uses a tiered system that will designate counties as green, yellow or red, based on the risk of the spread of COVID-19. A specific breakdown by county is expected to be released July 31 after which districts such as RSU 18 can decide how they will instruct students this year.

The district’s back-to-school committee is divided into six subcommittees that include instruction, health protocols, transportation, nutrition, facilities and staffing.  

The district has 1-to-1 technology and has recently acquired around 100 mobile wifi hotspots to give to any households that don’t have internet access, Gartley said.

Students who return to in-person instruction would have to abide by strict health and safety policies.

Some of these policies include:

• Implementing a strict hand cleaning protocol and educating students and staff on proper hand washing.

• Installing hand sanitizer dispensers in every classroom and school bus.

• Prohibiting visitors to the building.

• Creating scheduled movement in the building to prevent crowding.

• Implementing a screening protocol for students and staff to monitor symptoms.

• Assigning students seats on the school bus and requiring face coverings to be worn while on the school bus.

• Wearing face coverings in areas where social distancing is not possible.

Gartley said the plan is subject to change as more developments come from state officials.

“None of this is final,” Gartley said. “Safety is number one so if things change, we will adjust accordingly.”

The district is in the process of launching a website for parents to check in for updates on the plan for the upcoming school year.

The school board also authorized its district budget at Wednesday’s meeting after voters passed it at the July 14 state primary election.

The $39,810,018 budget passed 3,368-1,140. Results in individual towns in RSU 18 were Belgrade, 601 yes, 286 no; China, 769-211; Oakland, 1,066-276; Rome, 180-72; Sidney, 752-295.

“It’s about a 74% pass rate so I think that’s great,” Gartley said.

The budget was initially approved by the board during a meeting on June 17.

The budget represents an increase of $154,562 over current spending, according to Gartley.

Large spending items that were approved include:

• $17,584,463.99 for regular instruction.

• $5,732,416.33 for special education.

• $3,963,659.55 for student and staff support.

• $2,543,925.25 for school administration.

• $5,190,477.42 for facilities management.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 19 at 7 p.m.

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