WINSLOW — Plans for the Winslow Public Schools to make a full return to classroom learning this fall are becoming clearer, as the district prepares to offer full-time, in-person instruction, with remote learning options.

District Superintendent Peter Thiboutot presented the Winslow School Board at its meeting Monday night with the plan, which he said is subject to change, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent Peter Thiboutot, photographed in May 2018, says plans are progressing for the Winslow Public Schools to make a full return this fall to in-person learning, with remote learning options. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

“This plan will get all students back, if this is the route we go,” Thiboutot said.

Thiboutot announced earlier this month the district plans to pursue in-person learning five days a week this fall. The district now operates under a hybrid model, with many students alternating days of in-person and remote learning, along with a group of students that is fully remote.

The district looked to return to full-time, in-person learning last month, but current school space could not meet COVID-19 physical-distancing requirements.

The district is using its old junior high school building — subject to recent discussion during Town Council meetings — for its sixth-grade students to comply with health and safety guidelines, which include 3 feet between students and 6 feet between students and staff members.

The public schools in Winslow enroll about 1,100 students at three schools: 555 in kindergarten through sixth grade at Winslow Elementary School, 158 in grades seven and eight at Winslow Junior High School and 384 at Winslow High School.

Thiboutot said the district has received a 22-page document from the state with reopening guidelines for the 2021-22 academic year. One option is to keep schools open when there is a positive case of COVID-19 and use pool testing, in which a group of students and staff is tested to identify close contacts, while classes continue in person.

“If you agree to pool testing, the 3-foot recommendation is no longer a requirement,” Thiboutot said. “A requirement is a ‘must,’ but a recommendation you ‘consider.'”

The town has committed the old junior high school building for next year, but the building might not be needed if the district complies with the pool testing. An administrative meeting is scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Remote learning will still be an option at all grade levels, but details were not discussed Monday. Necessary additional staff members and costs for additional space would come from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER, part of the federal CARES Act.

Principal Erica Grower says Winslow Elementary School has space for all students in grades prekindergarten through five. Morning Sentinel file

“We would have smaller class sizes because of social distancing,” Grower said, “which would help us address our student’s needs in a post-pandemic world.”

At Winslow Junior High School, Principal Jason Briggs said he planned to send sixth-graders back to the old building. A social worker will be added at the school.

Winslow High School Principal Chad Bell said he planned to build a master schedule with class sizes between 12 and 15. This could require additional class sections, depending on student demand, he said. The district might look to add an English teacher, science teacher and educational technicians.

Bell said next year’s remote learning, called “virtual high school,” is not the same as virtual learning earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s going to look completely different,” he said.

Meantime, Winslow schools are joining in as schools across Maine begin to offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics for students 12 or older.

Thiboutot said the district was approached by a local pharmacy about offering a clinic. A survey sent to families showed 167 of 369 who responded said they were interested in participating.

The first dose of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine is scheduled for June 16 at Waterville High School.

“This is a very positive thing for us, with us getting (fully) back to school,” Thiboutot said. “These are important with how things play out.”

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