HALLOWELL — The “new normal” at Hall-Dale Elementary School in Hallowell includes math games from 3 feet apart, a smartphone app to help with afternoon dismissal and teaching in person and remote classes at the same time.

It took a while for administrators, teachers and students to get used to the new methods. Now, after a month of conducting classes under a hybrid model, members of the school staff said the transition has gone more smoothly than expected.

Second-grade teacher Delaney Kasle said students are following directions for social distancing and are happy to be back at school with their teachers and friends.

Kasle teaches in-person classes Mondays and Tuesdays and by remote learning Thursdays and Fridays.

On Wednesdays, the district has a full remote-learning day for which students are sent home with worksheets.

“The silver lining is that the home-school connection is just like we are in the classroom,” Kasle said. “The relationships are a really big part of allowing kids to succeed and grow and enjoy their everyday lives.


“So I like when kids show me their pets at home or their toys. It shows the relationship that they trust me.”

Principal Kristie Clark has a basket of masks ready Sept. 8 in case any student arriving for first day of school needed one at Hall-Dale Elementary School in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

In light of positive COVID-19 cases in RSU 38, Hall-Dale Elementary Principal Kristie Clark said her school is emphasizing symptom screening before students arrive for the day. As of the end of the day last Friday, RSU 2 has had no reported cases of COVID-19.

Hall-Dale fifth-grade teacher Steve Howe said only a few students in his grade have opted for fully remote instruction. Two days a week, he livestreams the remote students into the class that he is teaching in person.

Clark said 60 students have opted for fully remote classes.

The confusion between home and school “ironed out” in the first few days of school, Howe said.

“As soon as we hit that second week, it went much smoother,” he said. “You felt much more in the know and were able to answer questions that parents were giving you.”


Learning the technology needed in order to successfully learn remotely was one of Howe’s challenges.

The closure of school buildings between March and June helped Howe learn Google programs quickly, but before this year, Howe had never taught two classes synchronously.

“The toughest thing has been trying to figure out how to be in a role where you’re teaching live to separate groups,” Howe said, “and then also providing stuff that they can do when they’re not with you to make them feel connected — without letting one group get ahead of one another.”

Since only a few fifth-graders are in the fully remote cohort, Howe teaches those students by livestreaming his in-person class.

“It was more on the kids that are here in person because they have to be patient, too,” he said. “They know that I’m trying to switch and share (computer) screens and broadcast stuff to them at the same time, while answering questions in class and for the kids on the screen.”

When Howe plans his lessons for the week, he now has to make sure the remote learners and the in-person learners are on the same page. He said some of his teaching lessons have had to be altered to make sure they are compatible with online learning.


“I want to make it at least meaningful and not just providing worksheets,” Howe said. “It has to spin off from class, but also be able to be translated into a digital platform, where they can access it.”

Kasle added it is important to make sure the content students learn online is engaging. She said most of her students are more tech savvy than she, but some lessons, including “cutting” and “sorting,” do not transfer virtually.

For in-person students, Kasle said all of the materials, including tools and pencils, are individualized, and desks are 3 to 6 feet apart.

She said she likes to see her students work together, so it has been challenging to not see them experiencing the “teamwork” aspect of learning.

Clark said teachers have been creative in many ways, including finding ways for students to play games while 3 feet apart.

The teachers and Clark said they remain hopeful as they move forward utilizing practices they have used and refined over the past month.

“If we have to go back to fully remote, I really feel like the work that we’ve doing with them now in person, on the digital platform days, is extremely important,” Howe said.

“I consider that teaching, because we are teaching them how to use that platform to continue to learn, and that very well — at some point — could be the platform that they’re learning from again.”

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