Maine Central Institute graduates rise to be recognized at a recent graduation. The school includes students from around the world, the country and locally. Morning Sentinel file photo

Maine Central Institute’s plan for the return of international students to its campus in Pittsfield includes a five-day quarantine period and mandatory testing for COVID-19, the school announced recently.

MCI staff will pick up students at the airport and transport them to the 295 Main St. campus in Pittsfield.

“When the kids arrive they’re going to be put into single rooms for 72 hours,” Head of School Chris McDonald said in a phone interview Wednesday, “and then we’re going to test (them). Once we test … (the students) will be quarantined until we get those results. Hopefully we can get those within 48 hours.”

Students who test negative for COVID-19 will be moved into their dorm rooms with their roommate.

Around 40 international students are expected to arrive this week, according to McDonald. An additional 20 will arrive later in the year because of delays with international visas.

Maine School Administrative District 53, the school unit MCI partners with, has adopted a hybrid learning model based on guidance from Gov. Janet Mills and the Department of Education’s back-to-school framework.

At MCI, both day and boarding students have been divided into two groups that will alternate between online and in-person instruction. Group A will learn in-person Mondays and Tuesdays and online Thursdays and Fridays. Group B will be online Mondays and Tuesdays and in-person Thursdays and Fridays.

Wednesdays will be “individualized learning days,” when students can meet with teachers in-person or online by appointment, according to MCI’s website.

Parents have also been given the option to have their children learn remotely.

For the rest of the district, which includes Manson Park School, Vickery School and Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield, all students will have in-person instruction Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday be a remote instruction day.

Students and staff must abide by health guidelines issued by the state Department of Education, which includes wearing face coverings, maintaining a social distance and frequently washing hands.

MSAD 53 serves the towns of Burnham, Detroit and Pittsfield.

Students and staff must also be checked for COVID-19 symptoms each day before coming to school.

Day students will have their parents do the symptom checking at home,” McDonald said. “And what we’re doing with our dorm kids is our dorm parents will be doing the checks with each of the kids before they leave including a temperature reading.” 

McDonald said that the school won’t be administering regular scheduled testing, but will monitor students for symptoms and test as needed.

In the event that an international student gets sick, MCI has designated an isolation dorm to care for the student.

Faculty who have traveled out of state must provide a negative result for a COVID-19 test or quarantine for two weeks before coming back to work, McDonald said.

With its back-to-school plan, MCI has compiled a list of mental health resources for students and their families.

“We’re just putting everything in place to help our communities, help our families make sure they know they’re not alone,” McDonald said.

“I think adults are having anxiety with this whole thing, but we’re more experienced with coming up with coping mechanisms. We also were able to go through our adolescent development without huge interruptions either socially or with our learning styles. These kids had this hit them last year.” 

Teachers will meet daily with small groups of students as a source of support.

“This is a really resilient group of kids because being stuck at home with mom and dad when I was a kid was called grounding,” McDonald said.

“Then you throw in the social unrest of the country, it’s just a lot for kids to process, and I think we sometimes take for granted that they can’t process it as well as we can,” McDonald said. “We’re as prepared as we can be, and let’s just hope we start well and get these kids back to school.” 

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