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.
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.
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.
Governor Announces Significant Recommendations & Signs Civil Emergency Proclamation to Respond to COVID-19 in Maine.
March 15, 2020 - In the wake of several new presumptive positive cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Governor Janet Mills announced several new significant recommendations to respond to COVID-19 and signed a proclamation of civil emergency (PDF) to further protect public health. Governor Mills is recommending:
“With several new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Maine, it is important that we prepare and respond – but not panic. The Maine CDC has prepared for this eventuality since last year and we are coordinating across government and with communities statewide to respond to this threat. Proclaiming a state of civil emergency unleashes critical state authorities and allows access to federal funds that will support our response efforts to delay and mitigate the outbreak in Maine. These new recommendations will also further protect Maine people.
“Perhaps it is some odd fate that today we also celebrate Maine’s 200th year as a state. Two hundred years ago, we separated ourselves from Massachusetts and embarked on creating our own destiny as a state. We then, as Maine people, learned to be self-reliant and, at the same time, to rely on each other. Today, we are self-reliant and, at the same time, we rely on each other.
“Time and again, Maine people have risen to the challenges put in front of us. We have conquered them because we are a strong, resilient people – borne of the western foothills; the northern potato fields; the bold, rocky coasts; and the tall, pine forests. We have been lifted up by the courage, conviction and resilience that comes from loving a place and its people. Together, we will get through this.”
The Proclamation to Further Protect Public Health signed by Governor Mills today brings the State of Maine to highest alert and allows Governor Mills to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to take every action she reasonably deems necessary to help respond to and protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. It also eases Maine’s access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts.
Governor Mills also strongly recommended that:
Governor Mills has also directed the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to examine additional ways that the State can support Maine’s small businesses, including working with the Finance Authority of Maine and other potential lending partners. Her Administration is also working around the clock to prepare emergency legislation and enact a budget that helps response to the issues presented by COVID-19 with the goal on minimizing its impact on Maine people and reducing its spread.
These new steps from the Governor build on the work done by the Mills Administration to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, including:
The best thing that Maine people can do to protect their health is to take the same preventive measures that avoid catching a cold: