April 10, 2020 (2:00 PM)
As many have seen on the news recently, the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education (DOE), with support from Governor Mills, recommended this week that schools prepare for distance learning through the remainder of this school year. The recommendation was based upon guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that recommends an 8- to 20-week timeframe for avoiding large group/in-person instruction once there is evidence of community transmission. While our buildings must remain empty, our distance learning, technology support, and community meals programs remain very much open.
We recognize this guidance brings a realm of disappointment for students, families, and staff. As Maine CDC’s Director Dr. Nirav Shah so graciously put it, “It’s ok not to be ok.” From parents’ current challenges in balancing work/unemployment to childcare to distance learning, our students are also confused and saddened by the missed interactions with friends, end-of-year celebrations, athletic season, etc. We know that extending distance learning until the end of the school year poses an extreme hardship for every one but want to acknowledge our community is taking the right actions to minimize spread which is saving lives.
As a District, we continue to strategize how this decision impacts the remainder of the school year-- from graduation to grading. The School Committee continues to work through many other decisions surrounding the multitude of activities that occur during the remainder of our school year. Here are some important highlights:
GRADUATION: We are working on several different options for holding graduation. The dates, times, and process may look different depending on the public health situation in our state. We are fully committed to having a ceremony for our seniors for when we can be more confident that students and families will be safe.
SCHOOL VACATION: We will continue to have school vacation in April but it will be slightly modified from the current published schedule for next week:
Thursday, April 16 and Friday, April 17 - School in Session (two snow days will be eliminated from the school calendar). These will be “catch-up” days for students with no new lessons, assignments or Zoom meetings. Teachers will be available to help students during normal school hours via email.
Monday, April 20-Friday, April 24 - Vacation; No School. Please use this time to distance yourself from technology and recharge. However, we still encourage adherence to the stay-at-home order and following social distancing guidelines during this week.
Monday, April 27 - Distance Learning Resumes.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION: We will continue to provide breakfast and lunch to residents 18 and under regardless of income, including during school vacation. Please visit click here for more details.
SAT EXAMS: The Maine DOE confirmed that SATs will not be required for any Maine college or university and a majority of other colleges and universities around the country are demonstrating a similar degree of flexibility.
GRADING: Considering the extended distance learning model, our Principals are collaborating to provide a recommendation to the School Committee surrounding grading procedures. More information will be forthcoming.
TECHNOLOGY ACCESS: Technology is instrumental in our students’ ability to effectively engage in long-term distance learning. If your family needs access to the internet and/or computer, or in need of swapping out a faulty one, simply go to the bus loop at BMS between 10:30 am-12:00 pm, Monday through Friday (except during April vacation). If you have questions, please utilize the email or phone number below.
GOOGLE CLASSROOM: Teachers will continue to utilize Google Classroom as the chosen educational platform. Each student has an issued email address and can access their classroom(s) via this app. The written instructions are included on biddefordschools.me/DL as well as an easy-to-follow instructional video.
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT: This pandemic is unsettling and creating many challenges beyond our control. Our school counselors, social workers, and resilience coordinators have compiled a webpage of resources to help parents and students (see link below). We encourage parents and students to utilize these resources and reach out to the school counselors/social workers within their child(ren)’s school if needed.
PERSONAL BELONGINGS & MEDICATIONS: Following school vacation, our Administrative Team will develop a safe protocol to allow parents to access their child(ren)’s personal belongings, including medications, within the buildings. More information will be forthcoming.
As always, please stay connected with us at biddefordschools.me/health, and direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or use our special closure hotline at 207-391-6868.
Superintendent of Schools
Superintendent Jeremy Ray (pictured in video), APC Principal Martha Jacques, BPS Principal Margaret Pitts, and Bus Aide Linda Boisvert graciously rode the food distribution busses today waving at students and their families. A special thank you to CVS Pharmacy and Biddeford Recreation for donating candy and Biddeford Recreation, Saco Parks & Recreation and Smarty Pants Preschool for allowing us to borrow the costumes.
It was great to receive the following message via private message on social media upon their return: "Thank you so much for the Easter bunny surprise on the bus today!!! Made my kids day!"