Administrators from the Winslow Public School District have drafted a plan for the upcoming school year, despite still waiting on key information from the state, and have invested $52,000 in Google Chromebook computers to ensure enough are available for remote learning.

Superintendent Peter Thiboutot presented the plan to the district’s back-to-school committee on Tuesday afternoon and emphasized that it is subject to change.

“I want to emphasize again that this is a draft,” Thiboutot said. “There are a lot of pieces that still have not been finalized.”

Thiboutot said the district should be able to determine by Friday whether the upcoming school year will be remote or taught in a hybrid style. This is when Gov. Janet Mills is set to release the specific breakdown of the state’s “three-tiered” system that will designate counties as green, yellow or red, based on the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“We’re at the point where Friday, we can say here is our designation,” Thiboutot said. “We can say here is the major concept of our plan …”

Superintendent Peter Thiboutot, seen here in May 2018, reviewed the draft plan for Winslow schools in the upcoming school year with the Town Council on Tuesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

The district has formulated rough outlines for each possible outcome of Mills’ impending announcement:

— Green: Students can return to school for in-person learning, with new health and safety requirements in place or can choose to remain remote as an alternative. Modifications to ensure health and safety could include altered classroom configurations, additional learning spaces and schedule changes.

— Yellow: Students who choose in-person instruction would alternate between in-person and remote learning while some students remain fully remote. Students at the junior high and high school would do in-person instruction every other day while the elementary school would have students in one group on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Friday and another group on Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday.

— Red: Instruction will be limited to fully remote learning.

At a Winslow Town Council meeting Monday night, Thiboutot told councilors that the district has purchased $52,000 worth of Google Chromebook computers in preparation for remote and hybrid instruction.

Thiboutot also mentioned that the district is still considering using the old junior high school building as extra classroom space if needed.

A plan to close down the junior high school went into action in May 2019, when town officials decided to add a wing onto Winslow Elementary School for sixth-graders, and a wing onto the high school for seventh- and eighth-graders, after which the junior high would be closed.

Using the old junior high building would allow the district to maintain the 6-foot social distancing guideline between students and staff.

According to the draft, administrators have kept three major factors in mind during the planning process: protecting the health and safety of the school and local communities; maintaining an exceptional educational program that supports equity; and recognizing the role that school plays in the lives of staff, students, families and community.

In the event the district does bring back students in some capacity, the health and safety guidelines that will be implemented include having staff and students screen for symptoms every day before coming to school, enforcing frequent hand washing, requiring staff and students to wear face coverings, and maintaining social distancing.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the committee discussed why they’re relying on parents to screen their children for symptoms instead of having staff do it at school.

“We’re not choosing not to do this on our own,” said district nurse Melanie Lecours.

According to Lecours, the guidance from the state, the Maine Department of Education and the Center for Disease Control states that it’s the responsibility of parents to screen their children for symptoms.

“That’s what the guidance from these folks has stated,” Lecours said. “Because of the false negatives mostly, the kids coming from outside, their temps are exceptionally low, so we’re not getting accurate readings coming in the door. And then, going to their classrooms from there, it’s a time issue, getting the kids to their class and getting them learning …

“We want to make sure that’s taken when the kids are at home, in their own environment where they’re not hot from running around and not super cold from being outside so we can get an accurate reading.”

Lecours said the district is considering giving thermometers to families who don’t already have them.

“We are looking at what the cost would be,” Lecours said. “And also, having a demo on how to use it properly because people sometimes just don’t know.”

Lecours also addressed what type of face masks students and staff will be required to wear in the school buildings.

“I did a lot of reading on the masks today because it’s come up so many times,” Lecours said. “Guidance just says that it needs to be a face cover. And the face cover needs to cover your nose, your mouth and come down around your chin. It doesn’t get into any great specifics about brand …

“I think what we’re thinking, and this will have to be a district decision, that when children come in a face cover, as long as it’s clean and fitting them appropriately, then we are applauding the fact that they’re wearing a face covering.”

The district is considering producing videos and online demos to help educate students, staff and parents about things like proper hand washing and mask wearing.

Winslow Public Schools initially implemented distance learning in mid-March when the coronavirus began to increase in severity. The district announced in April it would maintain remote learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, as had been recommended by Commissioner Pender Makin of the Maine Department of Education.

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