Medomak Valley High School Principal Linda Pease distributed the following letter Friday, Aug. 21:
Dear Students and Families,
We are looking forward to seeing students in our school! Having ended our school year 2019 - 20 in a closure, we now find ourselves opening in a hybrid model for school year 2020-21; however, we are up to the task! This hybrid opening allows for in-person and remote learning. With numerous requirements for health and safety due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, our motto is:
“Panther Nation: We are all part of the solution!”
Indeed, every single one of us will be responsible for following requirements and behaving accordingly in order to ensure the safe environment that is part of our school’s mission.
Many staff members of RSU 40 have been working tirelessly all summer to bring about a start which will soon be underway. To prepare for the changes in the way our days will look, it is important to first understand the six requirements of the Maine Department of Education’s Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction. The text explaining each requirement is taken directly from the MDOE’s website.
1. Symptom Screening at Home Before Coming to School (for all Staff and Students)
Students (parents/caregivers) and staff members must conduct self-checks for symptoms prior to boarding buses or entering school buildings each day. Schools should provide information to families in their primary language to support them in conducting this check. Any person showing symptoms must report their symptoms and not be present at school.
Parents/guardians should screen their children for illness before sending them to school and should not send their children to school if they are ill. The following questions are recommended for screening:
a. Within the past 24 hours have you had a fever (100.4 and above) or used any fever reducing medicine?
b. Do you feel sick with any of the most common symptoms consistent with COVID-19? (such as cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or fever?
c. Have you been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19?
d. Have you traveled outside the state in the past 14 days?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes" please call the school at (207) 832-5389 to report your child's absence.
2. Masks / Face Coverings
As the primary route of transmission for COVID-19 is respiratory, masks/face coverings are among the most critical components of risk reduction.
Face coverings help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people or surfaces when the person wearing the face covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.
Face coverings should cover your nose and mouth, and fit snugly against the sides of your face. Cloth face coverings should have multiple layers of cloth. (MDOE)
1. Adults, including educators and staff, are required to wear a mask/face covering.
2. Students age five and above are required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth. Masks are recommended for children ages two to four, when developmentally appropriate. (7/31/20)
3. Face shields may be an alternative for those students with documented medical or behavioral challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings. The same applies to staff with documented medical or other health reasons for being unable to wear face coverings. (Updated 8/12/20)
a. Face shields worn in place of a face covering must extend below the chin and back to the ears. Currently, a doctor’s note is required for a face shield.
4. Transparent face coverings may be valuable to teachers and students in classes for deaf and hard of hearing students.
5. Alternatives to mask/face covering requirements must be made for those for whom it is not possible due to medical conditions, disability impact, or other health or safety factors.
6. Masks/face coverings may be removed during mealtime and outdoor activities where students and staff can maintain at least six feet of physical distancing from others and have ready access to put them back on as needed when activity stops. (Updated 8/12/20)
Teach and direct students to cough or sneeze into their elbow when not wearing a face covering or alternatively, cough or sneeze into a tissue, discard the tissue into a trash container, and then perform hand hygiene.
7. Masks/face coverings should be provided by the student/family, but extra disposable masks should be made available by the school for students who need them. Districts and schools with families experiencing financial hardship and unable to afford masks/face coverings should provide masks for students.
8. Reusable masks/face coverings provided by families should be washed by families daily.
9. Masks/face coverings should be replaced when soiled or wet. If the mask/face covering becomes soiled, remove and safely discard disposable masks, or store reusable face coverings in a sealed container or plastic bag for laundering. Perform hand hygiene after changing a soiled mask/face covering.
10. Masks/face coverings—or face shields for those who need them as described above—are required to be worn by everyone on the bus during school bus transportation.
11. Schools should provide information on proper use, removal, and washing of face coverings to staff, students, and parents/guardians (Updated 8/12/20 for clarity).
12. The use of masks with exhalation valves is highly discouraged as the valve can allow a concentrated stream of exhaled air containing droplets, putting others nearby at transmission risk. (Updated 8/12/20)
3. Physical Distancing
Adults must maintain 6 feet of distance from others to the extent possible. Maintaining 3 feet of distance is acceptable between and among students when combined with the other measures outlined in this list of safety requirements. 6 feet of physical distancing is required for students while eating breakfast and lunch, as students will be unable to wear masks at that time.
A “medical isolation space” (separate from the nurse’s office) must be designated for students/staff who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms during the school day. Adequate ventilation is required for classrooms, with schools having flexibility in implementation such as using properly working ventilation systems or outdoor air exchange using fans in open windows or doors.
Groups in any one area, room, or classroom must not exceed the Governor’s gathering size limits.
4. Hand Hygiene
All students and staff in a school must receive training in proper hand hygiene. All students and staff must wash hands or use sanitizing gel upon entering the school, before and after eating, before and after donning or removing a face mask, after using the restroom, before and after use of playgrounds and shared equipment, and upon entering and exiting a school bus.
5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Additional safety precautions are required for school nurses and/or any staff supporting symptomatic students in close proximity, when distance is not possible, or when students require physical assistance. These precautions must at a minimum include eye protection (e.g., face shield or goggles) and a mask/face covering. Classrooms and/or areas that have been used by an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 must be closed off until thorough cleaning and sanitization takes place.
6. Return to School After Illness
If you have a fever, cough, or other symptoms, you may have COVID-19. If you have these symptoms or believe that you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider.
Sick staff members and students must use home isolation until they meet criteria for returning to school.
By applying these six requirements to all aspects of our days at Medomak Valley High School, we have created a plan for our return to school. Long-awaited details including schedules, cohorts, and school operations will be forthcoming in the next few days!
In the meantime, may you be well and safely enjoy the last days of summer in our beautiful state of Maine.
See you soon!
Linda M. D. Pease
Maine DOE Framework- https://www.maine.gov/doe/framework
CDC’s symptom website- https://www.cdc.gov/…/2019-n…/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
CDC’s “When you can be around others” website- https://www.cdc.gov/…/if-you-are-s…/end-home-isolation.html…