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Latest Response Message From RSU 71

posted Mar 14, 2020, 11:46 AM by Christine Guerette


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

TO: RSU # 71 Community

FROM: Mary Alice McLean

RE: RSU # 71 COVID-19 Response Plan to Date

DATE: March 13, 2020

Dear RSU # 71 Community, 

As you are likely aware, there are now several confirmed cases of coronavirus in our state and a national emergency has been declared. A worldwide pandemic is something we have never experienced, so we are taking the threats before us very seriously indeed. We are very fortunate that ours is such a close-knit, caring and dedicated school community whose members are always willing to go the extra mile and extend our hand to help others, even in areas outside of our comfort zones. Thus, I am certain that all parties will continue to collaborate to ensure the safety, resilience and well-being of our students, families, staff and community members.

Today we gathered district administrators, nurses, technology experts, school board members, and guidance staff as well as Waldo County Emergency Management and local health officials.  Here is the resulting response plan, which will be updated and shared with the entire community school system as regularly as necessary.

  • School Closure - We are not yet closing down our school system but know that we may well be required to do so at some point. Parents who choose to keep their children home during this period of uncertainty may be assured that these absences will be EXCUSED absences. In order to prepare for the possibility of remote learning, we have scheduled two early release days for Monday and Tuesday, to enable teachers prepare for remote learning at home:

    • Monday 3/16 - grades 6 - 12 dismissing at 11:00 am and grades K- 5 dismissing at 12:30 pm.

    • Tuesday 3/17 - grades 6 - 12 dismissing at 11:00 am and grades K- 5 dismissing at 12:30 pm.

    • PD Friday 3/20 - schedule will remain the same (grades K-5 dismiss at 12:00 and grades 6-12 dismiss at 1:15).

  • Learning Materials for Remote School Days - If we eventually need to close down the school system, students in grades 3 - 12 will be sent home with their 1:1 devices to enable them to continue to learn from home, and all students K-6 will also be provided with a packet of learning materials for two weeks worth of learning activities and materials in the areas of math, reading, and writing, including books, worksheets, and games. Students are very accustomed to using google classroom, IXL, RazKids, Epic, Kahn Academy, and other e-resources that they will be able to continue to access from home. We know that 10 % - 20% of our RSU # 71 families do not yet have internet capacity in their homes; so the district will be purchasing a month’s worth of internet service for these families. School Principals will be sending surveys home to determine which families would like this service put in place for their children should we need to close down.

  • Food Service -

    • While we are in session we will, for the time being, eschew salad bar and ala carte offerings and will serve students all items, including cutlery, condiments and milk. Lunchtime will be extended to allow time for us to serve students individually, and additional staff will be deployed to help food service staff. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program will continue in schools that qualify to offer snacks, but these will be wrapped individually.

    • In the event that we need to close down the school system, we will be offering free breakfast and free lunch for all students at three schools: Captain Albert Stevens, East Belfast Elementary and Ames Elementary. It will be possible for students to pick up bagged breakfast and bagged lunch at the same time if this is easier for parents, though students may also eat breakfast and lunch at school. We are also exploring offering free food at other locations approved by the state, as well as the possibility of transporting needed meals to other key locations within our community. We currently partner with Good Shepard Food Bank and so intend to send home food with students for families for whom food insecurity is an issue in the event that we need to close down.

  • Disinfecting schools and buses - All our schools and buses are being disinfected and have been for weeks. 

  • Cancellations - All school assemblies, concerts, dances, theatrical productions, and large-group events will be postponed until further notice, as well as all field trips and staff and student travel outside the school district.

  • Spring Sports - The MPA has moved the start date of all spring sports until April 27 with all games and athletic events postponed until mid-May.

  • Visitors to Schools - We will continue to welcome parents, of course, and contracted services for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, counseling and the like, but will limit discretionary visits to our schools by guest speakers, volunteers and community partners.

  • Travel - Travel by students, families and staff is strongly discouraged and travellers should be aware that we may well need to prevent students and staff from returning to the school system, depending on the recommendations of CDC (Center for Disease Control).

  • Communication - Updates will be sent by robo-call and robo-email. We have an RSU # 71 COVID-19 site on the district webpage ( www.rsu 71.org) that will be continually updated with key information.

  • Decision Making - In the face of concerns about students, families and staff who may have been exposed to the COVID-19, the school nurse should be notified. She will communicate with CDC and we will follow the recommendations made by CDC as to when individuals of concern may return to school.

  • MEA Testing (grades 3 – 8) and SAT TestingMaine 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.

  • Education

    • Medical Information: The school nurses of RSU # 71 will be culling key documents to educate our community about the coronavirus; these will be posted on our district webpage.

    • Mental Health Resources: The school counselors of RSU # 71 will be culling helpful resources for students, families and staff to share facts and information while also limiting anxiety and panic in children and adults. These, too, will be posted on our district website.

Thank you - Thank you for your patience and the work you will do as we manage this extraordinary and evolving situation. Our community is loving, dedicated to our students, and extremely resourceful. Working together will allow us to meet this challenge and ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community. Please feel free to be in touch with me and with other members of our administrative team with any questions or concerns. Please know, too,  that the volume of emails and calls have increased exponentially as COVID-19 has done, and that we will do our very best to respond to you individually as soon as possible.


Mary Alice mamclean@rsu71.org - telephone # 338-1960