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A Letter From The Superintendent

posted Mar 12, 2020, 2:56 PM by Bruce Bailey

REGIONAL SCHOOL UNIT #71

Belfast ∙ Belmont ∙ Morrill ∙ Searsmont ∙ Swanville


Mary Alice McLean

Office of the Superintendent

PO Box 325

Belfast, ME  04915

Telephone:  207/338-1960 . |    Fax: 207/338-4597


March 12, 2020

Dear RSU # 71 Community, 

As you are probably aware, a lot of new information about Coronavirus was shared yesterday: the World Health Organization labeled this as a global pandemic, Germany’s leader Angela Merkel stated that 60- 70% of the population could become infected, the NBA suspended its season, many colleges and universities will not have students return after spring break, and preliminary studies have shown that the virus can live up to 2 days on plastic and stainless steel and 3 hours in the air. 

We have done our best to stay informed and consult with local public health officials. Given the status of the current situation, we have taken additional measures since my last communication on our district website. We are taking the situation very seriously. 

I am providing information about other questions you might have below: 

Events -  We have not yet suspended our participation in outside student and public events, but may well need to do so. Two exceptions are: 1) tomorrow’s night’s dance at THMS, which we are cancelling due to close body contact and close quarters in the cafeteria, and 2) rec department basketball games scheduled for over the weekend. (There are no custodians hired to clean and disinfect the gym, which is what happens after all events during the week.)

Spring Sports -  Right now, our plan is to proceed with the spring sports season, knowing we may well need to cancel practices and games as time goes by. 

MEA Testing (grades 3 – 8) and SAT Testing -  Maine continues to work under the assumption that we will be able to begin state MEA testing later in March as planned. There is a testing window during which schools are expected to do the testing. Should Maine schools be impacted with COVID-19, there is the possibility of extending the assessment window to provide additional time to administer the assessments. The College Board is also looking into whether to reschedule the SAT, though it has not yet done so.

Staff Travel -  We are not yet suspending participation in conferences and workshops, but may well need to do so. 

Potential for School Closure -  We don’t know if we will face this situation, but we are planning for it just in case.  We hope to provide lunch (and breakfast) even if we close. We would use remote electronic learning at grades levels where feasible (most likely 5 – 12). We are still working on figuring out the best approach for grades K-4. We would not enter into a school closing lightly and recognize it would be an incredibly difficult decision. We know that closing our schools would be  extremely disruptive to our community on several levels. We also know it may be the only option for the health of the community. All of those needs are important, and we hope that the community will trust our decision-making process, together with public health officials, if we are faced with that question. More detailed plans will be forthcoming regarding student and staff expectations in the event of a school closing. 

Personal Travel -  I urge everyone to reconsider travel plans. Airports and airplanes are breeding grounds for contagions and traveling exposes us to far greater numbers of people from a much wider geographic area. 

Further Planning - Tomorrow we are convening a meeting of school nurses, administrators, directors of technology, food service, transportation and maintenance as well as our district physician, CDC representatives, and our Waldo County Director of Emergency Management. Additional information will be sent to you all after that meeting.

Thank you - Thank you for your patience and the work you will do as we manage this extraordinary and evolving situation. Our community is strong, caring, and resilient. Working together will allow us to meet this challenge and ensure the health and safety of our community. Please feel free to be in touch with me and with other members of our administrative team with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely, 

Mary Alice


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