December 4, 2020
Update by Superintendent Jeremy Ray
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Staff,
As you know, we anticipated a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases in our community. This assessment led us to proactively close buildings to students this week. Indeed, we have seen a notable increase of positive COVID-19 cases--several each day. While we are concerned for those affected, we are also relieved that a skeletal staff and empty student desks have mitigated a broader spread of the virus in our schools. As of this writing, we remain yellow with 27 confirmed cases among both students and staff from all but one of our schools. These cases are primarily linked to outside gatherings via community transmission.
The remote week undoubtedly reduced a significant exposure to our staff and students by allowing individuals who began to present with symptoms to test prior to returning to school. It also allowed the majority of an individual’s quarantine to have occurred during this week.
After considering recommendations from the Maine CDC and staff quarantine dates, we have made the decision to have students return to in-person instruction as such:
John F. Kennedy & New Life Church (PreK & K): Monday, December 7th
Biddeford Primary School (Grades 1 & 2): Remain in remote instruction on Monday and Tuesday (Wednesday is a Flex Day), with a return date slated for Thursday, December 10th.
Biddeford Intermediate School (Grades 3 & 4): Monday, December 7th
Biddeford Middle School (Grades 5-7 and STEM): Monday, December 7th
Biddeford High School (Grades 8-12): Monday, December 7th
Alternative Pathways Center (Grades 9-12): Monday, December 7th
Center of Technology: Monday, December 7th
As noted above, all schools, with the exception of Biddeford Primary School (BPS), return to in-person instruction on Monday, December 7th as originally planned. Unfortunately, we cannot predict if this trend will continue and more confirmed cases will be reported this weekend which could affect these return dates. Our student health and leadership teams are literally monitoring and tracking cases around the clock, 7 days a week. If anything changes, we will communicate by Sunday at 4:00 PM. Parents of younger students or students with special needs should give thought to a “plan B” for supervision and care if cases continue to grow exponentially over the next 48 hours.
As reported in the Portland Press article this morning, we believe our schools remain safe. However, we also recognize some families may be uncomfortable with their child(ren) returning to in-person instruction on Monday and Tuesday. This is an individual family choice and if parents opt to keep their children home, it will be considered an excused absence. With the exception of BPS Grades 1 and 2 (which will continue as remote on these days), all Kindergarten, grade 3, 4, and 5 students who remain home should access Seesaw or Google Classroom for further guidance and grades 6-12 and Center of Technology students may opt to access remote instruction, as they have done this week.
For the health and safety of all our students and staff, please continue to complete the COVID-19 self-screening assessment each morning, and I urge families to heed the CDC recommendations as we approach the next holiday. We must all work together during this difficult time to ensure that our schools remain safe and open for in-person instruction.
Superintendent of Schools
TRAVELING GUIDELINES & RETURN TO SCHOOL
For those who traveled outside of Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont during the last two weeks, please remember your child must abide by the following state guidelines prior to returning to school:
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).
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.
BE PREPARED FOR THE COLD WEATHER
A friendly reminder to parents of students who ride the bus - 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 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.