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Island school eyes options for fall reopening

Jul 20, 2020

Islesboro — Charles Hamm, Islesboro Central School's head of school, sent the following letter to members of the school community July 19, detailing the school's process for considering how to reopen in the fall.

"I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones healthy and able to spend time outside, enjoying the beautiful Maine Coast. We are fortunate to live in a place with such natural beauty and diverse outdoor opportunities. As the summer weeks go by, we find ourselves preparing for several contingencies this fall with an eye on attending school in person.

"The ICS Reopening Committee, consisting of 18 people, comprises parents, staff, administration, counselors, and medical personnel. The committee is charged with researching multiple resources, gathering the most recent best practices, and presenting recommendations to the ICS Leadership Team.

"Through staff and family surveys, the committee will carefully consider the needs and capacity of the Islesboro community both on and off campus. The ICS Reopening Plan will align with the green, yellow, and red outbreak categories as outlined by Maine’s CDC Director, Dr. Nirav Shah.

"Simultaneously, the Leadership Team is working on scheduling, determining classroom capacities, and gathering information from other school districts and from other countries. The team is also taking into consideration CDC guidelines, DOE recommendations, and local health experts’ advice as they develop safety protocols. No less important are the measures being taken by the Facilities Committee. To teach and learn outside as much as possible, we’re building an outdoor classroom/deck with sunscreen. We’ve also purchased picnic tables,and will clean and revitalize our campus trail system. Signage will be installed throughout the school as well as additional hands-free hand sanitizing units. Our air handling units are performing at maximum levels. PPEs and infrared thermometers have been ordered, transportation issues are being hammered out, and food service personnel are working diligently to provide the safest method of providing meals. We expect to present a comprehensive plan, with several contingencies built-in, to the school board by early August. The safety of students, staff, and their families is paramount to our preparations.

"Being a K-12 school with a Magnet Program presents ICS with unique challenges. We serve students and staff from a large geographical area. We will implement all reasonable measures in an effort to mitigate exposure between grade levels and commuters across the bay. We will do everything we can to socially distance the elementary students from the middle school and high school population.

"Reflecting on the remote learning started in March, it became clear we needed to address aging technology. In response to student and teacher feedback, we’ve recently provided all middle school students with new iPads and high school students and teachers with new MacBook Airs. We will be prepared to return to remote learning at a moment’s notice should our area develop rising cases of COVID-19.

"Social and emotional support will be important in dealing with the stresses and trauma associated with this pandemic. Crucial to our plan will be systems in place that will address the mental health of our school community. The pandemic has presented a difficult path for the families we serve. It has been exhausting and unsettling for staff and students alike. We strive to develop plans that will safely allow us to get back to school. We miss our students terribly, but remain vigilant in keeping their safety at the forefront of our reopening plans.

"With great pride, I report ICS will continue to serve our students and honor our commitment to public education to the very best of our abilities throughout this pandemic".

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