Department of Education to Release Statewide Survey to Inform Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction
Maine Department of Education continues to work with educators and health experts from across the State to develop health markers and corresponding plans to ensure the safe return to classroom instruction. As this work develops, the Department is seeking input from additional stakeholders from across the State, and will release a survey on July 6.
On June 11, 2020 the Department of Education released the first draft of a framework to assist school administrative units (SAUs) in developing their plans and determining their capacity to meet the national CDC guidelines for safely returning to classroom instruction. This draft framework will continue to evolve and will be developed based on science and community health markers.
The framework was created with input from a diverse group of stakeholders, and included education and health experts, students, parents, education advocates and leaders. We have worked with a research organization to develop a survey through which educators and support professionals, education leaders, and families of students can provide comment and share their opinions on the 2020-2021 school year and possible models and needs for a safe return to classroom instruction.
Four different surveys have been created, specific to the role of the person completing the survey, including: 1. Teachers and educational technicians; 2: School or SAU leadership; 3: Specialists and student support staff or 4. Family member. The surveys will be available at https://www.maine.gov/doe/fall2020survey beginning July 6 through July 12. The Family Survey is available in 11 languages.
The data and feedback will be compiled by the research group and considered by the team who will continue to revise the framework over the next month. While these surveys will provide a snapshot at the state and county level, many superintendents have asked for and are reviewing their own community-specific information, which will inform the work of their Collaborative Planning Team in developing instructional plans that will be responsive to risk levels.
Your participation in these surveys is greatly appreciated in preparation for the next school year. Our fervent hope is that our continued trends in the battle against COVID-19 here in Maine will allow our schools to resume classroom instruction for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, as our schools serve as a stabilizing force for our communities, students, families and the economy. Yet, it is prudent at this time to both hope for the best, and prepare for many possible scenarios.
June 15, 2020
Dear Parent / Guardian
As the 2019-20 school year draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you regarding a couple of items that we are working on as a school district.
First, I want to thank all of you for your support of both your own child’s learning and the efforts of our staff as we finished the year using remote learning strategies amid the COVID crisis. I recognize that many of you may have been unaccustomed to implementing home schooling strategies and therefore this was a new experience for your family. My principals have reported to me anecdotal feedback they have received that outlined both successes and challenges faced by our resident families and I wanted to reassure you that this feedback has not gone unheard.
Secondly, I am also very certain that many of you have questions regarding the upcoming school year and what that might look like. At this point, I must emphasize that student safety is the highest priority in our planning for next year. I also would point out that in my professional opinion a return to the “normalcy” of previous years is highly unlikely at this time. With this in mind there are two possible global frameworks that are guiding our thinking at this point and they include: a sort of hybrid model incorporating a variety of both on-site as well as remote educational approaches and the continuation of a distance education model taking the above referenced feedback into consideration as much as possible.
As our district-wide planning efforts continue, I want to alert you that a survey will be sent to you with questions designed to further guide our thinking. I strongly encourage you to respond to this survey as soon as possible to ensure the greatest amount of time to finalize our strategy for next year and also to subsequently give you the greatest amount of time to prepare as a family.
Thank you for your support during these challenging times.
Superintendent of Schools AOS 77
USDA Pandemic EBT ProgramOn May 5, 2020 the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia and Vermont were approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the closure of classroom-based instruction.
Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont will be able to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants, and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households, to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. For the 2019-2020 school year, Maine had approximately 77,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 42% of children in participating schools.
Maine Fact Sheet
What is P-EBT?:
The USDA Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program is being managed by Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Maine Department of Education (DOE) is supporting by securely sharing data and promoting the program to districts. The program allows states to provide benefits (like SNAP or “food stamps”) to children who normally receive free or reduced-price meal benefits.
How do families receive this benefit?
If a family has an existing Pine Tree card and is considered open on SNAP or TANF with a child in the household who was age 5 (as of 10/15/2019) through age 18, benefits will automatically be provided to their existing accounts in May. Families should verify the benefits have been added to their cards.
If the family does not have SNAP or TANF benefits but is qualified to receive free or reduced-price meals, they also qualify for the benefit. If the district has submitted their enrollment and economic status updates to the DOE regularly, these families should already be on the list DHHS is using for benefits. Families will get a new card and will need to call the phone number on the back to activate. Additional information, such as date of birth, will need to be provided to DHHS by the families as part of the activation process. If the child was not age 5 as of 10/15/19 and received free or reduced lunch in Pre-K the family must request P-EBT through DHHS.
If children did not receive free or reduced-price meals and a household is interested in the program, the family needs to apply for free and reduced-price meal benefits. The family can apply through their local school district. Paper applications must be available during the school year, but online applications can be used. If the family is found eligible, they can call 1-855-797-4357 and provide required information to an eligibility specialist. The district must do an enrollment update to DOE for the student’s name to be entered into the database shared with DHHS. The information provided by the guardian will be verified with DOE data, so it is important that enrollment data provided to DOE from districts reflects the change. If families are newly eligible for free or reduced-price meals, they will only receive one benefit amount.
What is the benefit value of P-EBT?
The P-EBT benefit is meant to replace the value of school breakfast and lunch while schools are closed. Benefits are issued on a card for families to use. There are 2 benefit amounts planned: 1) Combined March and April benefit is $189 per child and will be available in May. 2) Combined May and June is $194 per child and will be available in June.
What if families do not want the benefits?
Families that already have a Pine Tree Card that receive benefits will need to call DHHS and ask to have P-EBT removed. Families receiving a new card for P-EBT (it will be a white card) should destroy and dispose of the card.
Can students still get meals through our district during the Unanticipated Closure if they receive P-EBT?
Yes, this program is above and beyond the current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Programs being operated.
May 15, 2020
Dear AES Families,
I hope this letter finds you well, I am writing you to provide important information for the end of the school year:
End of School Year
In observance of Memorial Day on Monday, May 25th, no assignments will be given nor will there be remote learning sessions occurring on this day. The school office will also be closed. However, meals will still be available and deliveries will still continue on this day.
Remote learning will continue through to Friday, June 5th, now designated as the last day of the school year. In these weeks prior to summer break for students - teachers will begin slowly reducing workload and incorporating more learning projects or creativity focused activities. No new assignments will be given after the date of Friday, May 29th.
The week of June 1st through the 5th will be a remediation week for students. During this week, teachers will continue to maintain online availability and students will have the opportunity for additional time to complete assignments, receive extra remediation/support, and hold exit conferences with their teachers.
The school office will be open daily June 1st to the 5th from 8:00am - 3:00pm to facilitate the return of materials. If you are unable to come to the school during these hours, please contact us to make alternative arrangements.
Guidance from the Maine Department of Education encourages schools to adopt grading practices that “hold harmless” students for whom conditions are outside of their control and as best as possible prevents further learning inequities. The teachers and staff are sensitive to the variety of challenges continuously faced by the students and their families including equity of access and support. In an effort to do no harm, the 4th quarter report card will not be the same as usual.
Teachers will continue to review and provide feedback on student work submitted or shown through online programs and paper packets. At the end of the quarter, a narrative report will provide information based on what the student was able to access and demonstrate. This report will be sent to parents/guardians and will be used by teachers to help students transition to the next grade in the fall. Unless conversations with regard to considering retention were discussed with a student’s parents/guardians prior to school closure, the anticipation is that students will move to the next grade.
Upon returning to school, the use of regularly scheduled assessment tools will provide more exact information about student strengths and needs. Those assessments will help inform instructional needs going forward.
Understandably there may be questions about the reopening of school in the fall. Guidance from the Department of Education, the Governor’s office, and the Maine CDC will be essential to how that process will look. We will continue to provide families with information as it becomes available - please continue to monitor your email as well as the school website at https://alexanderelementary.org where information will be posted.
Supporting Learning during Summer Break
For families interested in supporting learning over the summer - currently available on the school website are numerous links to free online learning resources due to the COVID-19 emergency school closure. This section will soon include recommendations from teachers and information on how to continue to access programs students currently use during remote learning.
The teachers and staff at Alexander Elementary wish to express our gratitude for how our families have approached and responded to remote learning during emergency school closure. Throughout this time and given the enormous challenges faced by each family, your efforts have fostered and supported learning. And to our students: We miss each and every one of you, and we are looking forward to seeing you all again.
April 10, 2020
On Tuesday, April 7, Commissioner of Education Pender Makin and Governor Janet Mills made the recommendation to continue distance learning services until the end of the school year. The schools within AOS 77 will follow this recommendation and services like the ones you have grown accustomed to during the previous three weeks will continue.
Please be advised we will be observing April Vacation week as a vacation and will only be distributing meals according to the regular schedule in your town. I feel that both families and staff who have been working diligently during these challenging days need that respite.
At the present, no formal decision has been made regarding graduation exercises for 8th grade and 12th grade students, however, I will be asking the respective school boards for their input.
Thank you for your support during these challenging times.
Superintendent of Schools
April 7, 2020
Dear Champions of Education,
As you may know, US CDC guidance recommends an 8 to 20 week timeframe for avoiding large group/in-person instruction once there is evidence of community transmission of COVID-19. Therefore, I am recommending, with the support of the Governor, that you begin to plan to replace classroom/group instruction with remote/distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
It is difficult to make such a recommendation, recognizing the profound challenge of reinventing public education and the many culminating events and rites of passage that educators and students anticipate all year long. I also realize that this recommendation will be difficult for families to hear, given the challenges of childcare and managing school expectations on top of the other significant impacts of this state and national emergency.
That said, I believe it is extremely important for school leaders to have as much information as possible in order to best prepare educators, students, and communities for a longer period of remote learning and to promote opportunities for redesigned celebrations and alternative ways to provide both continuity and closure.
April 1, 2020
Third Quarter report cards are scheduled to be mailed to each family on Friday, April 10th. Given the circumstances around extended school closure, I am writing to you to provide information and guidance on grade reporting at this time.
For the report cards you're about to receive, the grades will reflect student achievement during the third quarter period up until the date of school closure, January 17th through March 17th, 2020. The assignments given during school closure will not be reflected on the third quarter report cards.
Moving forward with the 4th quarter, we are sensitive to the variety of challenges faced by families as remote learning continues. Student expectations and grading are under constant review, and consideration is being given to how achievement will be measured and reported during this extended school closure. The traditional grading system at Alexander Elementary will be modified to accommodate the flexibility required during this time. I intend to provide you with more details in this regard as soon as possible.
Remote learning of this magnitude is relatively new to everyone and as we fine-tune this process, your feedback is appreciated and critical to ensuring the process is productive but manageable. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or your child’s teacher with your feedback, concerns, and/or questions.
I cannot overstate the appreciation for all of your efforts to support your child’s learning from home as families encounter challenges in all aspects of daily life at this time.
March 24, 2020
Dear AES Families,
I hope this letter finds you well. As we move into the second week of school closure and work to ensure everyone continues to have access to appropriate learning materials, I will provide some additional guidance for continuity of learning from home during this extended school closure.
For those families currently using hard copy packets - in the coming weeks, families can expect packets and materials to be mailed home at the end of each week. Teachers may provide additional materials with the packets, such as guided reading books to accompany assignments. These materials should be dropped off at the school with the completed work packet.
To allow for the return of completed work and materials, the main office will be open to parents on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm. To ensure someone will be at the school as well as comply with current Maine CDC guidance of avoiding gatherings of 10 or more, please be sure to call ahead before coming to the school.
If you are unable to come to the school weekly to return completed work and materials, please call the office so we can make other arrangements.
For those families currently using Google Classroom - teachers will continue to utilize these online platforms, please continue to have your child check-in regularly. If your family is currently having internet challenges: Consolidated Communications, which services the towns of Alexander and Cooper, is now offering free internet installation and service to families of K-12 students affected by school closure.
If your family is simply unable to access broadband internet service, please advise your child’s teacher (or call the main office) that you would like to continue using hard copy packets.
March 23, 2020
Dear Parent or Guardian:
At this time I must inform you that I am extending the closure period for all AOS 77 schools until Monday, April 27, 2020. During this time families will continue to receive meals and homework in the same manner that has been implemented by the individual schools your children attend.
During the week of April 20-24 (April Vacation) there will be no homework sent as we will observe April vacation but meals will still be provided.
Thank you for your continued cooperation and understanding during these challenging days as we continue to work on behalf of students in the safest manner available to us.
Superintendent of Schools
AOS 77 – Sunrise County School System
March 18, 2020
Dear Parent or Guardian:
I regret to inform you that in light of the threat posed by the coronavirus (COVID 19) schools in AOS 77 will be closed at least until April 1, 2020. At that time the decision will be revisited in the light of all information available at that time.
This action was taken in response to Governor Janet Mills’ declaration of a civil emergency on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Additionally, schools have received guidance from the Maine Center for Disease Control and the Maine Department of Education. Information from both agencies can be found on the Maine Department of Education homepage. https://www.maine.gov/doe/covid-19
During this time, each member school of AOS will be issuing its own guidance pertaining to the protocols for the distribution of food to those families in need, dissemination of educational materials to students, the availability of staff and access to the school building. Parents need to refer to the letters received from the principal of their particular school for specific instructions.
While I am sure that our students will be disappointed it is paramount that we keep their safety firmly in focus. Thank you for your understanding during this challenging time.
Superintendent of Schools AOS 77