FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 students will return to school on Sept. 8 and prekindergarten through eighth grade will return to school with a hybrid model for learning.

The school board approved changes Tuesday to the full return model that had been presented at last week’s board meeting in favor of a rotating hybrid model after receiving more survey responses from parents.

Thirteen members approved the plans, two voted against and Chesterville board member Craig Stickney was not present for the vote.

To better prepare staff and train new hires, the board also approved the proposal for the first day of school to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Grades nine through twelve will follow the hybrid model that was presented to the board last week, with Fridays remaining fully remote learning days for all high school students.

“So our proposal has changed based on some important information that we gathered,” superintendent Tina Meserve said via Zoom. “When we got the survey results back from our parents, only 46% of our parents can transport students home at the end of the day.”

The district does not have enough buses to transport prekindergarten through eighth grade students on a daily basis while maintaining the state’s CDC guidelines. Instead, these grades will follow a rotating hybrid model that will follow a two week cycle.

Students will be organized by last name into two groups. Last names from A to Z will be designated as a blue cohort and K to Z will be designated as a gold cohort.

“It’s a two week span, and it’s a hybrid model for grades prekindergarten to eighth,” curriculum coordinator Laura Columbia said via Zoom. “So if you had a student whose last name was A to J, on Monday they would be in person. And we’d have K to Z, they’d be remote. And then it alternates every day.”

The remote and in-person days will continue to alternate so that every other week, students would have the same schedule.

“This was a really difficult decision because what we know this causes difficulty for our parents with weekday care and other means for supporting their children for days that they are a remote learner, but we don’t have an option that follows those guidelines and keeps kids safe,” Meserve said.

Meserve also said that these models were subject to the status of coronavirus cases in the community and may need to be modified to maintain changing CDC guidelines. A full remote model has been developed by district committees in response to a potential coronavirus outbreak.

“If something happens halfway through the first quarter, we may have to regroup earlier,” Meserve said. “If we get 20 cases or even five cases, we might have to be rethinking what’s happening. At any time, we have to be prepared to shift from one month to another.”

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