Amid pandemic, ‘an air of cautious optimism prevails’ at Islesboro Central School

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 12:00pm

    The following letter was shared Monday, Oct. 12 by Islesboro Central School Head of School Charles “Chuck” Hamm: 

    We’re entering into our fifth week of school and despite continuing challenges and a choppy start, teaching and learning has returned to the campus of Islesboro Central School.

    Grades 7-12 are attending school in two cohorts, one of the cohorts in person on Tuesday and Wednesday while the other attends Thursday and Friday. The opposing two days of school for each cohort are attended through remote platforms using Google Meets or Zoom. Mondays remain remote for all grades K-12. The strategy for Mondays is to continue our preparations and practice for the possibility we enter a state of prolonged remote learning.

    Presently, the elementary grades are released at noon. Elementary school will begin full days on Tuesday, October 13, with release at 2 p.m. Reports from the elementary team supported a longer transition to full days for the younger students leading to a delayed transition to a later release. We understand this creates challenges for families and appreciate all the work being accomplished at home.

    Wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene, and adhering to social distancing remain key initiatives in preventing the spread of the virus. We continue to stagger the start and end times of the school day due to limited capacity on buses. ICS school nurse, Ellen Mcdonald, is settling in nicely and has already organized a flu clinic and a dental service for students. She continues to research the most recent findings on COVID-19 and has prepared the nurse’s rooms for potential COVID-19 cases.

    Staff and students continue to take advantage of the Islesboro Sentinel Program and are fortunate to have swabs taken right here at school. We keep a watchful eye on local cases, paying particularly close attention to schools in neighboring counties. Teachers and students are working hard preparing for full remote implementation if we feel it prudent. It is our intention to give a longer lead time in the future and apologize for the inconvenience of our unanticipated decisions of late.

    Athletics have begun, albeit slowly. Coaches and Athletic Directors, both here and in the surrounding areas, have been cautious regarding beginning the season until school has been in session for several weeks. It’s a wise decision that seems reasonable in these times given the multiple changes in our schedules and conflicting recommendations from state agencies.

    We are optimistic that ICS will receive another round of COVID Relief Funds (CRF). This beneficial funding will support the recent need for substitute teachers, several upgrades in technology, and any unforeseen expenses.

    Students appear to be happy to be back at school, despite the changes and challenges. Staff are giving their all and settling into their routines without the benefit of field trips and guest speakers, amongst many other things. New staff are already adding positive elements to our school culture and climate.

    New devices are in students’ hands and working out extremely well with the support of our Tech Integrator, Peggy Shea. Infinite Campus training has also been gaining momentum under Peggy’s guidance. We now have a budding golf program and chess interests are on the rise, thanks to Mr. Reap. Our K-5 school counselor, Kiki Lockwood, has been reaching out to parents through Google surveys and making great strides in supporting the school community. Ouda Baxter has made the Art Room her own with the help of new student artwork.

    On nice days, students can be found with their teachers all over the campus. Slowly, we are seeing normal school “stuff.”  For the time being, an air of cautious optimism prevails at school.

    As cases of the coronavirus make themselves known in the surrounding area, we will react with caution and attend school remotely as needed. Conversations and meetings are ongoing as we monitor local cases and decide best actions. At the risk of appearing over cautious, we will attend school remotely as we deem appropriate. It is our fervent hope that Islesboro remains COVID-19 free.

    We pledge to continue to share information as situations develop. At the time of this writing, there are no known exposures of students or staff. Please understand that information regarding individual cases is strictly confidential and specifics cannot be shared. Spreading misinformation on social media is not helpful and can often negatively affect our decision making. We ask our community for patience and support as we navigate these extremely challenging and uncertain times.

    Be thoughtful, be caring, be kind,
    Chuck Hamm
    Head of School