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Superintendent's Update - Friday 10/30/2020

posted Oct 30, 2020, 11:44 AM by Bruce Bailey

Friday, October 30, 2020

Dear RSU 71 Students, Families, Staff, School Board, and Community Members, 

I hope this update finds you all well and geared up for a very different kind of Halloween. I’m grateful that community partners, including Waterfall Arts and the Belfast Free Library, will offer fun Halloween activities that will be safe for our young people to attend during this dastardly pandemic. It is a time when traditional Trick-or-Treating may be impacted, like everything else in our world just now. 

Here is an update on the happenings this week. I conclude this week’s update with an excerpt from one of the BAHS graduation speeches in June because of its theme about the unity we share as a community despite our differing beliefs, values, and political affiliations.

RSU 71 Color Status and Gratitude for Understanding - Today is the end of the ninth week of in-person instruction in RSU 71. I regret the need to have moved our school system to the Yellow-Light/Hybrid Mode in K-8 schools for two weeks. Ames Elementary School will reopen to in-person instruction on Monday, joining the rest of our schools in the Yellow-Light mode. The Maine Center for Disease Control, Department of Education, and our Belfast, Searsmont, Swanville, Morrill, and Belmont communities have done an outstanding job keeping our students informed and actively engaged in rigorous and engaging learning, whether in-person or remote. While I have very high hopes that we will return to the Green-Light Mode in K-8 schools on Monday, November 9th, that will depend upon the Maine CDC/DOE designation announced on November 6th. The CDC decision will be founded on whether or not the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to climb in Waldo County. I ask each of us to do everything to follow safety protocols in-school and outside of school as the best way to keep students in school to whatever degree is safe and recommended. 

We reopened our eight schools on September 1, a week, or two or three earlier than other school systems, so despite the two-day hiatus this week, our students still will have had more in-person instruction than most students in other systems. Belfast Area High School staff and students used this past Monday and Tuesday to do a dry-run of our Remote Snow Day Plan, and the good news is that it went very well, with high attendance rates. I do not anticipate needing to give staff time to prepare to go back to Green-Light from Yellow-Light or to transition to the Red-Light/Remote, should that ever come to pass, despite our prayers. The staff did very much appreciate time during this first rodeo of a transition to prepare the move to the Yellow-Light Mode. On behalf of teachers, I abundantly thank you for understanding this need and making adjustments at home to transition between modes smoothly. The two possible COVID-19 situations we had been closely monitoring have been resolved, with both individuals testing negative. Our total number of confirmed cases in RSU 71 remains at two, one at CASS and the other at Ames. There is now on the district website a color-coded designation for easy reference (https://www.rsu71.org/).

K-5 Parent/Guardian Survey - As we near the end of the first trimester in our K-5 schools, we are again soliciting feedback from parents, grandparents, and guardians about whether you wish to have your children remain in-person as learners or transition to remote-learning. We will offer the same opportunity to reconsider plans at our middle and high schools as we approach the end of the first semester. While we have asked families to try to stick with plans developed for the whole first trimester (K-5) and the first semester (6-12), we have made exceptions based on changing circumstances.

Second Trimester Learning Options K- 5 Parent Survey

I end with a quote from Alicia Berube’s graduation speech last spring:

I am proud to call myself a member of the 2020 Belfast Area High School Graduating Class, a class so well rounded it excels in individuality, academics, technical education, athletics, and extracurriculars. I am proud to graduate alongside the first transgender Valedictorian in Maine, not only graduate alongside but have called a friend throughout my high school experience. I am proud that collectively our track teams hold 15 state championships and that one of my oldest friends accounts singularly for 8 of them. I am proud to be a part of a class which includes Klairha, Grace, and Sydni, who have worked alongside Mrs. Maheu to create a beautiful work of art which commemorates and raises money for a scholarship fund in the name of Lalia Almatrouk, one of the most remarkable people I have ever had the pleasure to know who too I am proud beyond words to have worked alongside for the time that we had, and who I know would have had a thing or two to say about the current state of our world and who I unequivocally believe would have been a leader in changing it. I am proud that we are in the middle of history being made, not only graduating in the midst of a global pandemic but also in a time of political unrest and social tumult. I am proud that all of us have something to say about current times, regardless of the view we hold. I am proud that many of us have found a voice, I am proud that I have, and I am proud that we are able to use our voices to stand for whatever it may be that we believe. I am proud that even though we may lack diversity in a traditional sense, we compensate in part with the diversity of beliefs, opinions, and political orientation. I am proud that despite our divergences, we find the ability to converge. 

Let’s take inspiration from the wisdom and example of the students in RSU 71 who have, since the beginning of the pandemic, consistently modeled an ability to stay together in mind, heart, and spirit, supporting and loving one another during this exceedingly difficult period in our collective lived experience. I couldn’t be more proud to be their superintendent.

Sincerely yours, 

-Mary Alice

Mary Alice McLean
Superintendent of Schools, RSU 71
(207) 338 - 1960