HODGDON, Maine — Students at Mill Pond School and Hodgdon Middle-High School will head back to school in the fall, though it will be different from how they remember it.
SAD 70 Superintendent Stephen Fitzpatrick and other board members discussed during a school board meeting on Monday how the district would send students back to school in the fall, following the Maine Center for Disease Control and Department of Education recommendations. The first day for students in all grades will be Sept. 3. Classes will also be dismissed at 1:30 p.m. for the day.
Fitzpatrick stressed the importance for students to wear masks during the upcoming school year, in addition to being seated six feet apart from one another. He said students would be able to take “mask breaks” where they did not have to wear them for a brief period while being placed far from other students and teachers.
“Masks are not fun. Nobody detests them more than I do. However, I wear one out of respect for you,” said Fitzpatrick. “Our kids will have to do the same. Our teachers will have to do the same. Our staff will have to do the same. The one thing the state says is that we have to have masks.”
Parents will also be given a checklist of symptoms they can use to evaluate their children’s health, and will have to either test or quarantine their child if they meet several of the symptoms listed. Parents can also check their children’s temperatures before sending them off and send the results to the school via an app.
The Maine CDC, together with the Department of Health and Human Services, have developed a categorized system to gauge counties on how safe it is to reopen schools. Under a “green” level, counties are considered low-risk and in-person instruction is encouraged. A “yellow” level indicates a hybrid model of remote learning and in-person instruction, while a “red” indicates high risk and in-person instruction should be discontinued.
Fitzpatrick said that although Aroostook County was well within the green level, the fact that many parents are choosing the option of having their kids learn remotely essentially made the district follow a yellow plan.
He said the number of children staying home — approximately 25 percent — would allow for easier transportation, as well as having many parents surveyed saying they would drive their kids to school instead of taking the bus, which will be limited to one child per seat, with the exception of family members.
“It’s difficult for parents, and it’s gonna be difficult for students,” he said. “There are so many different attitudes and opinions about this whole piece. I can assure you that we are doing our very best.”