UPDATE: Important Calendar Change
November 6, 2020
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff,
Across the country, medical experts are encouraging families to consider postponing holiday gatherings this year to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. As cases across the country, including Maine, continue to surpass record increases, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah wrote, “The surge is here. Take action now. For your sake, and for the sake of your family and community, wear a mask and stay apart. This is serious." The Maine CDC cautioned families to consider the risks involved with holiday gatherings and provided alternatives such as having a meal with immediate household members only, eating outdoors while maintaining a six-foot distance, and wearing masks.
We understand the choice of not seeing families is a difficult one--especially when we consider how this option compounds the effects on our socioemotional health during an already stressful time. But how we give thanks this November is indeed a choice. We realize that some families will choose to move forward with their traditional holiday gatherings, shopping, and attend other events over Thanksgiving vacation. As this occurs, close contacts increase creating a potential uptick in positive cases and ultimately may jeopardize our schools remaining open for in-person instruction. Therefore, all Biddeford Schools and Dayton Consolidated School will be remote instruction only the week following vacation (November 30-December 4).
We completely understand the additional four (4) days at home (five for Dayton) can be a challenge for families. As we evaluated all the aspects of this decision and mitigating risk, we considered the following:
- The Maine CDC recommends testing for all close contacts of persons with Coronavirus infection 5-7 days after exposure. If staff or students were exposed, they would most likely show symptoms during that second week and could be tested, if needed, prior to returning to minimize the spread to others.
- We substantially increase the odds of having three (3) positive cases which would constitute an outbreak and could close school buildings for up to 28 days, which is much harder for families. If an outbreak occurs, our students wouldn’t return to in-person instruction until the new year.
- If we have to quarantine teachers or transportation staff, we could be in a challenging situation due to smaller classroom sizes and limited bus drivers. Depending on the number of staff required to quarantine, we realistically face being forced into remote instruction due to the reduced teaching staff in the building or bus drivers available to transport students.
- Planning ahead not only allows families to coordinate childcare arrangements in advance but also reduces a sudden disruption in the schedule when compared to the alternative of an outbreak.
- Provides teachers an opportunity to prepare in advance a schedule for the week with engaging lessons for effective remote instruction. This week will also provide an opportunity for teachers to practice and evaluate areas for improvement in the event we have a future classroom forced to quarantine, an outbreak, or a state lockdown. Staff will teach from within their empty classrooms at least 2-3 times that week while adhering to current guidelines.
- In response to the increase of COVID cases across the state, Governor Mills has announced that Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey are no longer exempt states. Families who do elect to travel to any non-exempt state will have state-mandated quarantine obligations, as will out-of-state college students returning home from non-exempt states at Thanksgiving to finish their semester remotely.
I understand moving to remote instruction for the week following vacation does not guarantee we won’t experience a spike in positive cases. However, after considering the factors above and the realization that postponing family gatherings will be a difficult and emotional family choice, I believe this decision would be in the best interest of our community as a whole. It would undoubtedly assist in reducing exposure and hopefully allow our schools to remain open for in-person instruction.
Please watch your email as grade-specific remote plans will be shared within the next week as teachers create their specific schedules prior to Thanksgiving. Any questions or concerns can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 207-391-6868.
Superintendent of Schools