August 13, 2021
Dear Parents and Guardians,
In just three short weeks, our school hallways and classrooms will boast with sounds of joyful youth as students reunite with their peers. For some, the return to school can be an anxious time, especially considering the recent uptick in COVID cases due to the Delta variant. I want to assure parents, first and foremost, our goal is to provide a safe environment for our students while also limiting school closures and quarantines, both of which are deeply disruptive to most families.
The Biddeford and Dayton School Departments were among the few districts across the state who were successful in keeping students learning in-person last school year. Utilizing a multi-layered approach, which included wearing masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and staying home when sick, we were able to keep our schools open without having any school closures due to outbreaks. These safety measures reduced students and staff having to quarantine, as well as an outbreak that shut down schools, which is not only an inconvenience and hardship for many families but also directly impacts students’ learning.
Last April, our school administration presented a Reopening Plan that was unanimously approved by the School Committee after public inspection and comment. As part of the plan, we committed to, “continue to follow all Maine CDC guidance and apply all updated US and Maine CDC guidance to our plan as the scientific community’s understanding of the virus’s spread and mutation evolves.” In the past week, Maine CDC (MCDC) Director Dr. Nirav Shah hinted that MCDC may adopt more stringent standards than the federal guidelines, in spite of Maine’s relatively high vaccination rates.
While we were hopeful this school year would return to “normal”, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and CDC issued new guidance along with the Maine DOE’s updated Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued yesterday. As a district, we had to consider this guidance through the lens of the overall public health for the entire school population, the risk of increased 10-day quarantines or an outbreak (3 or more linked cases) which close schools for 28 days, and halting all participation in school activities or sports. Every quarantine or outbreak affects our entire community, whether it be students missing lessons that could be the difference between reading levels or achieving hours needed in a skilled trade for graduation to parents being able to go to work to taxpayers paying for additional substitutes to cover for staff on quarantine.
After much discussion and listening to public participation, both Biddeford and Dayton School Committees approved moving forward with the following requirements:
Universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Masking is not required outdoors. We have learned throughout the past year that outdoor play is extremely safe and that the risk of transmission is extremely low. Playgrounds will be fully opened and students will not be required to mask while outside; however, students and staff may elect to wear face coverings if they choose.
Masking for all on the bus. Per the US CDC order related to transportation, all people on public or private school-provided transport, including buses and vans, are required to wear a mask.
This strategy is endorsed by our nursing staff, and our school department’s consulting physician Dr. Maggie Bordeau.
Physical distancing is recommended as a key prevention strategy while indoors only and eating (if unvaccinated); however, distancing efforts should not impede full-time, in-person instruction.
Implement Pooled Testing as an efficient way to curb outbreaks and reduce spread with early COVID-19 detection (NEWS CENTER Maine Video). A survey was sent out to all families assessing interest to determine if we would meet the minimum participation requirement (30%) to move forward. Statistically, 90% of respondents were in favor of pooled testing. A parental consent form will be forthcoming once our application is approved and protocols are developed.
Under Title 22, Section 802 of M.S.R.A 22, DHHS is requiring administrators to report de-identified COVID-19 vaccination rates among school staff serving students PreK-12 (Memo linked here). DHHS will publicly report vaccination rates by school each month.
Morning COVID screenings will occur at home (not online). Parents should review the signs and symptoms (linked here), keep their child home when sick, and report any symptoms or positive COVID results to the School Nurse.
Any activity within our school buildings (i.e. after care) will follow the same guidelines.
As I shared with the School Committees, this is our plan now. This requirement will be revisited as transmission data is reviewed throughout the school year and any substantive changes will be based on recommendations from the Maine DOE and CDC.
Based on survey results last Spring, only a handful of families said they wanted their children to remain in a remote environment regardless of the public health guidance in September. Absent the critical mass required to make a separate remote program practicable, scalable, and affordable, at this time we are not able to offer a remote option. For families who have a documented medical need directly related to COVID-19 or its derivative(s), the Biddeford School Department will team with parents through the federal law commonly known as Section 504 to meet its obligation.
We know there are many other questions about the return to school and we will communicate more details as they are finalized. As always, we welcome your feedback and encourage parents and guardians to seek out our official communications avenues and ask questions if you need clarification.
District Facebook Page
District Mobile App (See below for downloadable links)
Superintendent of Schools
RETURN TO SCHOOL
Please refer to the updated school calendars links at bottom of the newsletter for school times and important dates, including early release, vacations, etc.
PreK: First Day is September 9th at John F. Kennedy School (JFK)
Kindergarten: First Day is September 7th at John F. Kennedy School (JFK)
Grades 1 and 2: First Day is September 1st at Biddeford Primary School (BPS)
Grades 3 and 4: First Day is September 1st at Biddeford Intermediate School (BIS)
Grades 5-7 & 8th Grade STEM: First Day is September 1st at Biddeford Middle School (BMS)
Grades 8 (not STEM) & 9: First Day is September 1st at Biddeford High School (BHS)
Grades 10-12: First Day is September 2nd at Biddeford High School (BHS)
PreK and Kindergarten: First Day is September 7th
Grades 1-5: First Day is September 1st
Please be aware that anyone on public school-provided transportation, including buses and vans, are required to wear a mask per US CDC Order. As we attempt to return our operations to regular routine, we will need families’ help with transportation; our fleet is stretched beyond capacity. The following requirements will be in place for a secondary drop-off/pick up location if space permits:
Families will designate the primary drop-off and pick-up location.
Families will request a secondary drop-off location. Pending the availability and needs of the student, a second drop-off location will be considered. At this time we are still working under CDC guidance.
Families will provide a set schedule prior to the start of the school year. At this time we will not be able to alter the schedule after it has been requested by the family.
The Transportation Department will determine if space is available on each bus. It will be the goal not to place more than two students per seat.
If your child did not ride the bus at the end of the year in June, you MUST call the Transportation Office immediately at 282-0909 as seating is limited. Parents can find bus information within their child’s portal on Infinite Campus under the 2021/2022 School Year tab (please see walking boundaries here for BMS/BHS students).
Please take the time to read this important health information update from the school nurses to ensure your children have a smooth, healthy transition and you have all the information you need to prevent any disruptions to starting the school year.
ATHLETICS AND EXTRA- AND CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
As of this writing, the School Department will resume all extra- and co-curricular sports and activities. Athletes (outside of locker room meetings/team meetings) are not required to wear masks, though the MPA may change its guidance as the season approaches and the public health picture more fully develops. We will reassess winter indoor sports in the fall.
It is very important for parents to stay connected to the school. If you have not yet set-up your Infinite Campus Parent Portal or need to make any edits to your information, please do so by clicking on the links below. Step-by-step instructions (apply to both Biddeford and Dayton) are available by clicking on the button.
DOWNLOAD THE SCHOOL'S MOBILE APP
Stay informed by downloading the school district’s mobile app! It will allow parents to choose the school(s) they would like to get notifications from, see the dining menu quickly, access the live feed, sports schedules and scores, important documents, emergency notifications, and more! Simply download the relevant app at the link below:
COMPLETE APPLICATION & ENTER TO WIN $100 GIFT CARD!
SOME NEW & FAMILIAR STAFF
Crystal Blais - Technology Integrator
“I've always focused my teaching on making learning fun and engaging through the use of technology. I'm excited to help teachers in the district do the same!”
Crystal previously worked as a classroom teacher for various elementary and middle school grades for 16 years. Outside of their full-time jobs, Crystal and her husband run a small business. She is a mom of three, including twins and loves to read and chase sports that her kids enjoy playing.
Biddeford High School
Center of Technology
Electrical Technology Instructor
Residential Carpentry Instructor
Emergency Medical Technician Instructor