Caribou High School now offering in-person, hybrid and remote learning

CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou High School recently adopted the “green” education model, allowing students to attend school five days a week, starting on Sept. 21. 

The school is still allowing students to continue attending two days a week under the hybrid model, or to opt for complete remote learning. 

The RSU 39 Board of Education voted July 29 to begin the high school year with the yellow, or hybrid, learning model, which involves one group of students attending classes on Monday and Tuesday, a deep clean on Wednesday, and the other group attending on Thursday and Friday. 

Along with the July vote, the board also agreed to re-evaluate this plan in late September with the intent of adopting the green model.

RSU 39 Superintendent TIm Doak said the school chose to start with the yellow model so they would have a more comprehensive understanding of what school procedures and routines would look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They also wanted to be prepared in the event of an outbreak shifting education from green to yellow, or from yellow to red.

Both Doak and Caribou High School Principal Eric McGough said the first day under the green model went well, and that it did not require a drastic change compared to physical attendance under the yellow model. 

Doak said the school could easily maintain social distancing efforts under this model, as a good number of students are still in the red model with others choosing to continue with the yellow model.

The superintendent said hallway traffic patterns have been great, and that while he and other administrators initially worried about masks, they have not been an issue up to this point.

“[Caribou High School Athletic Director Evan Graves] and I made a point to walk through the halls and monitor some spots we thought might be a little more condensed, but it was great,” said McGough. “The kids all did fantastic, and I think we saw the benefit of starting out yellow because it led us to develop those good procedures before we got everyone in here. Now, this is so ingrained that it’s muscle memory.”

While social distancing requirements may have potentially resulted in more bus rides under the green model, Doak said there have been no busing issues, with many parents dropping off their kids at school and others opting to go yellow and red.

McGough said one of the biggest factors in the school’s decision to allow the green model was the preparedness shown by students and staff under the yellow model.

“You’d expect any sort of honeymoon phase to be over by now, but the kids and teachers continue to do it the right way every time,” he said. “We always have safety concerns, but at the end of the day we just felt that we could handle this, and that we have the capacity to handle this because of how serious and diligent the students and staff are.”

The superintendent said the district will allow kindergarten-fifth-grade students to attend physical classes at the high school from Sept. 28 to Oct. 13, while high school students are away for harvest break. Additionally, he said RSU 39 is providing training for parents at the Caribou Wellness and Recreation Center throughout the week about the technology their children will be using as they learn from home. 

“We had about 15 parents attend when we started this week and it was really well received,” he said. “That’s the one piece I think most schools tend to forget — we train our teachers and students, but we really have not trained our parents, and you need all three to make a good remote learning setting work.”

Overall, McGough said the school has received a wide array of feedback concerning their decision to go green as a district.

“Of course we had folks who were thrilled, and we certainly had some concerns from students and families about coming back,” the principal said. “I think one of the great things about our plan is it allowed people to choose the course they were the most comfortable with. Ultimately, we want to have customized learning at Caribou High School, and we’ve allowed families to have a sense of ownership over their student’s education.”

Doak said the school has not had any active cases of coronavirus within the student body. Since starting out with hybrid learning in late August, he said 24 students have shown symptoms and had to leave, but none tested positive. 

“I think we just need to stay cautious, to keep practicing social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing procedures,” said Doak. “That will keep us in the green a lot longer. We’re going into flu season with the coronavirus pandemic and we could have two pandemics if we’re not not cautious.”

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