DYER BROOK, Maine — When students return to Southern Aroostook Community School this fall, there will be a number of changes waiting for them as part of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the school board has yet to formally approve the plan, the district has posted several guidelines on its website.
Like most every school in Aroostook County, RSU 50 has been working on three learning options for its students of in-school learning, remote learning and a hybrid learning system. The district has also been working on a “green, yellow and red” plan with green being fully opened, yellow being a mixture of in person and remote learning and red being fully remote.
“Lunch is going to look different. Recess is going to look different. So we have a lot of work to get ready for kids in the school,” RSU 50 Superintendent Jon Porter said.
The first day of school has been pushed back to Thursday, Sept. 3, to give staff a few extra days to discuss procedures and plans for the new school year. Similar to neighboring RSU 29 (Houlton) and SAD 70 (Hodgdon), Southern Aroostook is exploring shortening its school day to end at 1:30 p.m. instead of the traditional 2:20 p.m. release time.
Students attending in-person classes will be required to wear masks inside the school. Any student that cannot wear a mask due to medical reasons will be required to wear a face shield instead.
Hand sanitizers will be placed throughout the school and in each classroom. Water fountains have also been replaced with bottled water filling stations so students can refill their water bottles throughout the day.
The use of lockers in the middle and high school will be suspended, to reduce the amount of surfaces students will have to touch. Students will be allowed to carry a backpack with them.
Prior to arriving at school, parents or guardians are asked to do a daily assessment of their child to check for any symptoms. Those parents who are able to provide transportation for their children are also strongly encouraged to do so to alleviate busing concerns, Porter said.
Upon arrival at school, students, staff and visitors will be subject to a temperature screening. No person with a temperature above 100.4 will be allowed into the building. Any student absent because of COVID-19 reasons will have access to remote learning options should they be sent home.
Classrooms will also have plexiglass barriers erected around any tables that feature multiple students as a way to provide individual space to each pupil.
“Whether you are in person or remote, we are working to improve our communication with parents in regards to what kids are working on, what was assigned to them and when it is due,” Porter said. “Overall, I think both parents and kids are ready for school to start. They want a little bit of normalcy. School will still be school. We will just be doing it with masks.”
The school board is expected to approve the new measures at its Thursday, Aug. 20, special meeting, when the results of the budget referendum will also be approved.