An advisory group has been meeting on Mondays and Eric Haley, superintendent of Waterville Public Schools, has been meeting with administrators and others on Tuesdays to create a back-to-school plan that ensures the safety of students and staff and delivers an education. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — Waterville Public Schools on Friday announced a proposed back-to-school plan for this fall, including requiring students and staff who choose to attend school in person to wear face coverings, social distance, wash their hands and stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

The 18-page plan, posted Friday on the Waterville schools website,, says visitors and volunteers will not be allowed in school buildings without prior building administrator approval.

Joan Phillips-Sandy, chairman of the Waterville school board. Morning Sentinel file photo

“Prior to going to school, staff, students or parents of younger students need to determine their health status by conducting a self-check,” the plan says. “Based on this screening, parents and staff should decide when an individual should remain at home as well as further guidance for addressing possible infection. Students who must remain at home due to COVID symptoms/exposure will engage in remote learning whenever possible.”

The plan was developed with an advisory group of parents, teachers, school administrators and school board members, including board Chair Joan Phillips-Sandy, who said Friday that she is happy with the plan.

“We borrowed ideas from elsewhere and, of course, always listening to nurses and the CDC and looking at the numbers,” Phillips-Sandy said.

The Waterville Board of Education on Monday is scheduled to consider voting to approve the plan, which would be put it into effect immediately.


“But all of these plans are subject to change,” Phillips-Sandy noted. “This will be the plan right now, barring any changes.”

She said the board on Monday also will consider determining when school will start.

“There’s going to be a request from the superintendent on Monday that the students don’t come until after Labor Day and teachers come two weeks before that,” she said.

The proposal is intended to allow teachers and administrators more time for preparations, she said.

Phillips-Sandy said the advisory group has been meeting every Monday morning online. Every Tuesday, administrators have been meeting with Superintendent Eric Haley, and throughout the week, educators and others have been meeting in their own facilities and buildings to develop a plan that is comprehensive and seeks to ensure students and staff are as safe as possible, according to Phillips-Sandy.

“It’s been as inclusive a piece of work as I could imagine,” she said.


Haley was not available for comment Thursday and Friday, but a letter from Haley and others on the administrative team to families, posted Friday with the plan, says the guide includes a compilation of information from the state Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

“The safety of our students and staff is of paramount importance to our school district and to our administrative team,” the letter says.

The plan notes that universal temperature checks of students upon entering school is not recommended because of the high likelihood of potential false positive and false negative results.

Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 will not be able to return to school until they have not had a fever for 24 hours and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms appeared, according to the plan.

Students who believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 should stay home, contact their building administrator, follow CDC guidelines for quarantine and self-isolation and contact their doctor, according to the plan.

“Students who have been tested and the results were negative should communicate those results to their building administrator. Once done, the administrator may allow the student to return to school with approval from the nursing team and forward paperwork along to the district administrative offices. Students who have not been tested but who have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 may not return to school until the student has not had a fever for 24 hours and at least ten days have passed since the student’s symptoms appeared.”


School buildings will be cleaned and disinfected regularly, building traffic flow will be modified to minimize contact between people, and students and staff will be asked to bring their own water bottles. Cups would be provided for those who do not have them.

While busing will be available to students attending school in person, families will be encouraged to use alternative transportation modes and students will be encouraged to bike or walk to school. Students who travel by bus will have assigned seating and must wear masks.

Serving food in the cafeteria or other spaces will require staggered scheduling that minimizes mixing of school groups and enables distancing. Sharing food will be prohibited.

“Teaching staff will not allow students to participate in group singing at this time unless outside and wearing facial coverings with proper spacing. Chorus and Band classes will be modified to protect students at all times. These activities are higher risk for COVID-19 transmission due to the larger numbers of respiratory droplets produced. Percussion and string instruments are allowed. Physical education and extracurricular sports will be limited to activities that do not involve close contact with other students or shared equipment, until advised otherwise by local public health officials. Plans will be made for options to convene sporting events and participation in sports activities in ways that minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to players, families, coaches, and communities.”

Field trips have been suspended.



Waterville schools will use a hybrid model of instruction where students will be assigned to specific “cohorts” that designate the days of the week they will attend and the days they will have off-site learning. For instance, on the first week of instruction, Cohort A will have in-school learning Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and off-site learning Tuesday and Thursday. The second week, that group would have in-school instruction Tuesday and Thursday, and off-site opportunities for Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Cohort B would have in-school instruction Tuesday and Thursday of the first week and off-site opportunities for learning on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In the second week, the group would be in school Monday, Wednesday and Friday and off-site, Tuesday and Thursday.

Cohort C enables a parent or guardian to choose off-site learning using online platforms including Google Classroom.

“A typical day for these students may include learning sessions with the instructor as well as independent work and/or work with a learning partner at home (i.e.,  parent, older sibling, friend, etc.).”

The plan says teachers will conduct needs assessments for those students related to access to technology, adequate at-home learning space and basic needs such as nutrition.


The school board on Monday will also take a final vote on a proposed school budget for 2020-21. The City Council on Tuesday took a final vote to approve a proposed $18.36 million municipal budget and a $25.2 million school budget. The school board takes its final vote on the school budget after the council takes its final vote on both budgets.

The board meeting Monday will be at 6 p.m. in Mid-Day Cafe at Mid-Maine Technical Center at Waterville Senior High School. People may also view the meeting remotely via a link on the schools’ website.

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