March 14, 2020 (8:00 PM)
**IMPORTANT OFFICIAL UPDATE REGARDING COVID-19 EMERGENCY PLANS** PLEASE READ ALL CONTENTS. **
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
Based on recommendations from health officials and emergency managers, the Biddeford and Dayton School Departments will close our schools for TWO WEEKS. At this hour, dozens of school districts in Southern Maine--representing nearly half of Maine’s student body-- are sharing this same news with their communities.
This decision was made with great care and some trepidation: we know that this unprecedented disruption will create a burden on families. We understand--after all, we’re employees and parents, too. But as Superintendent of Schools, my primary charge is the safety and welfare of our 2,500 students and 500 faculty and staff. Nationally, school closures will soon affect more than 25 million students.
Why was this decision made?
Federal and state officials are encouraging municipalities, schools, and private organizations alike to take steps to encourage “social distancing.” While healthy students are less likely than the elderly or infirm to be seriously impacted by COVID-19, transmission dynamics for this pandemic remain uncertain.
The data show that school closures for moderately transmissible pathogens reduce the cumulative infection rate by about 25% and delay the peak of the epidemic by about two (2) weeks. I can’t, in good conscience, place our students and staff at risk.
The latest information from the Maine CDC suggests that COVID-19 has up to a two-week incubation period.
What services are available to my family during this time?
Our Emergency Pandemic Response Plan has been activated, and I have identified essential staff who will report to campus this week in order to ensure continuity of services. While we necessarily must scale back our services, for now, we will support families through the following:
LEARNING CONTINUES. Our teachers have been working tirelessly to develop meaningful, relevant learning opportunities for our students. I’d ask families to begin reviewing our Distance Learning page at biddefordschools.me/DL beginning Tuesday; I’ve asked our faculty and staff to touch base by phone or email in the coming days.
MEALS WILL BE PROVIDED. Lunch and breakfast will be made available via curbside distribution at various sites to our youth 18 and under. According to USDA guidelines, children should be present upon pick-up. This is the schedule for the first week of March 16-20 only (a schedule for the following week will come shortly):
Monday, March 16 from 9:30 - 11:30 AM at the BMS Bus Loop
Tuesday, March 17 - Friday, March 20 from 9:30 - 11:30 AM at JFK, BMS, APEX Youth Connection and McArthur Library
The real question on everyone’s mind is, when will schools reopen? Our tentative plan is to reopen our doors on Monday, March 30. However--and I can not emphasize this enough--the Maine Department of Education has encouraged districts to have plans for closures beyond two (2) weeks in the case of a confirmed COVID-19 exposure in our community. To be perfectly honest, no one knows for sure. Parents must plan ahead. In the coming days, we will explore any and all options to assist families in this regard, but are awaiting further guidance.
Building access is restricted to essential personnel. The Leadership Office will be open for essential functions only (e.g., instruction, facilities management, business functions) and parents and students are asked to please refrain from going into our buildings.
If you had a scheduled IEP meeting, it will be rescheduled.
Thank you for your ongoing support and understanding. Our team is literally working around the clock to stay abreast of developments and be intentional and collaborative in decision-making and communication. The support and understanding that has been proffered by our community have been a welcome relief during these long and difficult hours.
Remember, you can stay up-to-date with all school-health related resources at biddefordschools.me/health. If you have any questions related to school closure, my team will monitor emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and a designated phone line at 207-391-6868 with a FAQ page posted to that page early this week. Due to communication demands with officials from around the state and skeletal support staff, we ask that you understand calls and emails may not be returned for up to 48 hours.
Superintendent of Schools