Gov. Mills: Getting kids back into classrooms is critical to their recovery and to ours

Sat, 06/12/2021 - 1:15pm

The following is a transcript of a radio address presented by Governor Janet Mills. 

Classroom learning is critical for the social and mental and academic development of our kids. With the progress we’ve made in vaccinating people, there should be no barriers to getting our kids back into the classroom full-time this fall.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Maine consistently ranks among the best states in the nation for COVID-19 vaccinations, with over 70 percent of our entire population having received at least one dose. We are making meaningful progress protecting Maine people, including those age 12 to 15 who just became eligible last month for vaccinations.

As of June 9, almost 40 percent of Maine youth of that age have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 19 percent have received final doses.

With the progress we have made in vaccinating Maine youth and containing the spread of COVID-19, we have been gradually relaxing the physical distancing requirements in schools that participate in our pooled testing programs.

Earlier this week, we announced that remaining physical distancing requirements in all schools will be relaxed next school year.

As a result, we expect every school to offer full-time, in-person learning in the fall. We also strongly encourage schools to participate in our pooled testing program to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 for students who are not yet eligible for vaccinations and to limit educational disruption due to quarantining if a student is identified as a close contact. Pooled testing allows schools to easily test many staff and students all at once and to respond quickly to any positive cases and limit the spread of the virus.

Since the fall of 2020, nearly all Maine preK-12 schools have been providing in-person instruction to students.

School administrators and teachers have worked hard all year to protect their students from the virus and to provide them with a good education and to meet so many of their other needs. By following public health and safety protocols, school staff have successfully kept the rate of COVID-19 transmission in schools lower — much lower — than the state average.

I am deeply grateful for their herculean efforts, but like most Maine people, I also worry about the children who have been left behind academically and emotionally in these last fifteen months of remote or hybrid learning. Trying to learn online with no internet or slow internet, or with a disability, or with English as your second language, or with just no one to help you at home — that’s all unbelievably hard. And parents across the state have struggled to juggle homeschooling and jobs.

Getting our kids back into the classroom is critical to their recovery, and to ours.

This fall, with more students and school staff vaccinated and with the spread of COVID-19 slowed, every school in Maine will resume in-person, full time classroom instruction.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.