November 20, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
The Maine Department of Education (DOE) announced this afternoon that York County is moving back to a Yellow designation according to its Health Advisory System rating. This is not surprising news considering the recent spike in COVID cases throughout the country and state. Thankfully, our return-to-school plan was designed to meet the criteria of green or yellow designations; therefore, a yellow designation does not change Biddeford or Dayton’s current schedules. It will, however, impact the start of the winter athletic season as school districts must suspend competitions and group practices during a yellow designation.
In a memo to Superintendents, the DOE Commissioner wrote, “Over the last 30 days, the new case rate in Maine schools, including both students and staff, was 8.8 cases per 10,000, compared to 19.9 cases per 10,000 in Maine overall. This may indicate that school settings are safer than other community settings, and this is likely due to your careful adherence to the health and safety requirements and guidelines.” To review the Maine CDC School Dashboard of cases in PreK-12 Schools over the last 30 days, click here.
Acknowledging Governor Mills recent executive orders, the Maine DOE is advising the following guidelines, most of which Biddeford and Dayton are already adhering to:
Review and Enforce Indoor Space Limits: Ensure the number of people (including staff and students) in any one indoor setting, including hallways, entryways and areas where students may congregate, do not exceed 50. This can be done with one-way hallways, markers to indicate social distancing, staff monitoring, etc.)
Increase structure around mask breaks: In addition to the time during which students may be eating or drinking with a minimum of 6’ physical distancing, school staff should offer only highly-structured and well-supervised mask breaks during the school day. Such mask breaks should be limited to 5 minutes each, up to a maximum of 15 minutes per day. Breaks should take place in a classroom cohort when possible. Mask breaks should occur only while stationary, six feet apart, facing the same direction in a classroom and refrain from engaging in conversation during the break.
I recently read, “This is not the year to get everything we want. This is the year to appreciate everything we have.” Ironically, after the isolation and struggles of this year, we want more than anything to gather with our loved ones and appreciate everything we have together; yet, in doing so, we could potentially increase transmission of COVID-19. As I conveyed in my letter home last week, I urge families to consider the CDC recommendations so our schools remain safe and open for in-person instruction. For the health and safety of my loved ones and the employees with whom I work every day, my family and I have decided to stay home and forgo our annual large-scale celebration; I know how difficult this can be for folks--especially those who feel isolated or lonely.
In fact, many of our families rely on their extended family for a delicious meal at Thanksgiving. So, I was thrilled to learn that several local businesses wanted to donate complete Thanksgiving meals to our students in need. Our resiliency coordinators, social workers and counselors connected with families and even reached out to the Saco School Department to ensure their students were also included. On Saturday, November 21st, the business community will deliver the full boxes for families to pick up or school staff to deliver to homes in both communities. On behalf of all our families, my deepest gratitude to the local businesses identified below for caring for our community!
REMOTE WEEK FOLLOWING THANKSGIVING
Principals from each school have sent out information regarding remote instruction, including a general schedule, for the week following Thanksgiving vacation. Within the next week, you will hear from your child’s teacher(s) with specific details regarding their exact schedule, Zoom links, and programming. Students will follow the same schedule at home with instruction on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and Wednesday remaining a Flex Day. If you have any concerns about the remote week, please contact your child(ren)’s teacher(s) or principal directly. We ask that all students and staff continue to complete the self-screening each morning to monitor symptoms.
TRAVELING GUIDELINES & RETURN TO SCHOOL
For those who choose to move forward with any travel plans outside of Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont, please be aware of the below state requirements.
All members of the household (over 12 months old) must either:
quarantine for 14 days upon return to Maine OR
quarantine until receiving a negative test result (sample taken no longer than 72 hours from arrival in Maine)
These requirements are in place regardless of the length of time spent within the restricted states (i.e. a day visit is the same guidelines as a week visit).
Any staff or students who have travelled to restricted states will not be permitted to return to work/in-person instruction until a negative test result is provided or 14 days has passed.
Through partnerships with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), “swab and send” sites provide COVID-19 tests free of charge even without an order from a provider. Many require an appointment so planning ahead is critical. Testing site information for Maine can be found here.
We will be offering FREE breakfast and lunch during the week of November 30-December 4:
Biddeford Middle School Bus Loop between 10:30am-12pm
Biddeford High School Steve White Gym between 9-10am
Bus Route Delivery - see the following drop-off locations and approximate times.
Dayton Consolidated School Gym between 10-11am
COLD WEATHER IS HERE
Parents of students who ride the bus should be aware that multiple windows must remain open on each side to provide adequate ventilation according to the Maine CDC Standard Operating Procedures for Schools PreK-12. This safety precaution prevents us from having to quarantine every student on the bus should a positive case arise and allows students to remain attending in-person instruction. We are asking parents to ensure their child comes prepared with mittens, hats, and multiple layers to remain warm while on the ride to school.
If your child is in need of warm winter gear, please reach out to your child(ren)’s principal and we will do our best to assist thanks to limited grant funding. If you decide to transport your child(ren) to school yourself instead of utilizing the bus, please call the bus transportation office at 282-0909 to prevent unnecessary stops.
If you missed a past issue or reference any of my past communications, they can be found on my Smore Newsletter page here. All important COVID-related updates are located on our website at biddefordschools.me/health and questions or concerns can be emailed to email@example.com or by calling 207-391-6868.
I wish you all a happy and safe holiday next week!
Superintendent of Schools
This Dashboard, updated by the Maine CDC on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, reports COVID cases in Maine schools PreK-12 over the last 30 days.