Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 17, 2020
Blue Hill students to go remote January 4-8
by Jeffrey B. Roth
Blue Hill Consolidated School students will learn remotely the week of January 4-8 due to concerns of the increase in COVID-19 cases on the Blue Hill peninsula and throughout the state.
“I think parents would prefer being remote” rather than get a last minute notification about going remote before school starts,” Blue Hill School Committee member Jo Barrett said at the December 9 school committee meeting. “We should plan ahead right now, to be remote January 4-8.”
Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said Hancock County, despite the recent COVID-19 outbreak at Island Nursing Home on Deer Isle, continues to be designated “Green” by the Maine CDC. A “Green” designation, according to the Maine CDC, means a county has “a relatively low risk of COVID-19 spread” that allows schools to determine whether to offer in-person instruction if the facility can meet the minimum health and safety guidelines.
“People are nervous,” Hurvitt said. “The state has come out with new, stricter guidelines for mask wearing. Across the state and specifically here, schools continue to be pretty safe places, but everybody is nervous.”
In a December 11 email, Hurvitt said that Tuesday, December 22, is the last planned day of school, district-wide. On January 1, the Maine CDC and Department of Health and Human Services are expected to issue the latest COVID-19 color designation assessments.
“The Hancock County superintendents will discuss this on December 30 to see how Hancock County is doing with cases,” Hurvitt said in the email. “All of our 180 employees are working so hard to insure that students are safe and that buildings are safe, and it has gotten even tougher to do this with the cold weather, and with the alarming rise in cases in Maine as the backdrop.”
Principal Shelly Schildroth said that two days prior to the committee meeting, there were 59 students who had committed to remote learning, and an additional 13 students in temporary remote status. In all, there were more than 70 students of the total student population who do not attend in-person instruction, she said.
After the committee unanimously voted to offer remote-only learning for the week following the Christmas vacation, Barrett reminded members that, in November, the board approved a Thanksgiving travel policy for students and staff and agreed to review the travel policy for the Christmas holiday. Barrett suggested that the committee adopt a COVID-19 travel policy for students and staff that would not only cover Christmas travel, but would remain in effect for the remainder of the school year—but could be changed later if required.
The committee voted to adopt a student and a staff COVID-19 travel policy. Essentially, the only difference between the student and staff travel policy is that students are required to participate in remote learning while completing the steps required to return to in-person attendance following travel outside of the state.
Specifically, students and staff who travel outside of Maine to states not exempted from the COVID-19 travel restrictions, may remain out of school for 14 days after returning to Maine, or wait five days after returning to Maine before taking an approved COVID-19 test and remain in quarantine until test results are available. Prior to returning to school, a negative test result must be submitted to the school nurse.
In regards to winter sports, the committee voted to approve a basketball program beginning in January. Assistant principal Derek Perkins said a plan is in place to begin a phased-in winter sports program that focuses on drills and instruction. Andrew Chung of BHCS and Tim Chandler of Parker Ridge Retirement Community were approved as coaches.