SKOWHEGAN — As the 2020-21 school year nears its conclusion, Maine School Administrative District 54 school officials, like administrators statewide, are looking at options for returning this fall to full-time, in-person instruction.

“It’s incredibly difficult to plan right now because of the lack of certainty about the fall,” Jon Moody, superintendent in MSAD 54, wrote last week in an email. “What we know is that we’ve been able to have all students pre-k through 6 successfully, and that it is essential to get our 7-12 students back in-person every day next year.”

Grades seven through 12 are now operating under a hybrid learning model in MSAD 54, alternating days in the classroom and learning remotely. The district enrolls students from Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

“It doesn’t pass the straight-face test to allow kids to compete in athletics, now without masks, and yet they can’t be in school, without touching, closer than 6 feet while eating or 3 feet while masked,” Moody wrote in his email.

The Maine School Superintendents Association sent a letter recently to the state Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, pressing officials for information on what COVID-19 restrictions might be in place in the fall.

Current pandemic restrictions in Maine call for 6 feet between students while eating and 6 feet between staff members and students. They also limit the number of students on school buses.

These mandates made it difficult this year for most school districts to offer full-time, in-person learning.

If the regulations are not relaxed, superintendents in many districts have said they will likely be unable to return students to in-person learning five days a week.

“Educators across the state are hopeful that the guidelines put out for the fall will reduce the inconsistencies between the public sports guidance and school guidance and that there will be flexibilities for districts to ensure all kids are back in school every day,” Moody wrote.

In nearby Maine School Administrative District 74, which enrolls students from Anson, Embden, New Portland, North Anson and Solon, Superintendent Mike Tracy has been vocal with his concerns. In February, Tracy sent a letter to state officials asking they reconsider social-distancing requirements in an effort to get more students back into classrooms full time.

At the April 8 meeting of the MSAD 74 board of directors, Tracy said schools within the Carrabec district will return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall, eliminating the current hybrid and remote-learning models.

Tracy said he and other administrators had come up with two plans: One for adjusted coronavirus safety mandates and a backup plan in case those mandates are not adjusted.

Last week, the superintendent of Winslow Public Schools wrote a letter to the community outlining the district’s intention to drop its hybrid model for the upcoming school year, regardless of whether the state alters physical-distancing guidelines for schools.

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