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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 23, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, July 23, 2020
Union 93 zeroing in on students’ return
But much still uncertain

by Anne Berleant

While summer is always a time for fall planning for the head of Union 93, which includes Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot and Surry school districts, under pandemic conditions, Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said “planning” takes on a whole new meaning.

“Ive got notes, a lot of stuff is in my head,” Hurvitt said July 21. “Each school board is going to see something in writing to sort of open up their school.”

The next round of school board meetings, where boards will vote on its school’s re-opening plan, begins August 3 in Brooksville.

And while much depends on whether the school district is designated green, yellow or red by the department of education, Hurvitt said he is guessing green, which allows a full return to classrooms. “If it’s yellow, we’ll be in a hybrid situation. If it’s red, it’s no go,” he said.

The categories are based on the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and the DOE will announce where each district lies on July 31.

If local districts are designated green, Hurvitt said a back-to-classroom plan will be joined by a distance learning plan for students who do not want to physically return to their school. The third option is for parents to home school their children, which starts with filing a notice of intent with the superintendent.

“We’re trying to be as inclusive and as sensitive as possible,” Hurvitt said. “And I understand not 100 percent of the kids, for whatever reasons, are going to be back at school, so we’re trying to accommodate for that. It’s just the reality.”

Hurvitt has been meeting with a Union 93 team weekly since June to form a plan. However, as a union, each of the five schools may reject the plan Hurvitt presents next month, or amend it, a fact that Hurvitt is well aware of.

“In my mind, everyone’s doing the same thing, but I don’t know what each school board will say,” Hurvitt said. “That’s the drawback of not having a state plan. It’s just a process to go through.”

While Hurvitt is expecting a number of students not to return to in-class learning, that may be balanced by new students to the district, he said.

“There’s a lot of out-of-state license plates here [from people with] summer homes. I wouldn’t be surprised if these people start showing up at their local schools and register,” he said. “I don’t know what that’s going to do to enrollment or if it’s even going to become a factor.”

Once school boards adopt their re-opening plans, Hurvitt said he will have some direction, and about a month “to see how it’s going to shake out, how many kids are riding buses, how many are showing up at school.”