August 7 Letter From Ellsworth Superintendent Dan Higgins
Ellsworth Superintendent of Schools Dan Higgins sent the following letter to parents, guardians and students on Friday August 7th regarding back to school plans
Dear Parents and Guardians of Ellsworth School Department Students:
I trust this message finds you all well and enjoying this marvelous stretch of beautiful Maine summer weather!
Since Tuesday’s School Board Workshop, we have received a number of questions asking why will not be starting the school year with in-person instruction for all students. The purpose of this message is to briefly review how the State’s color-coded risk designation system for counties and the health and safety requirements necessary to resume in person instruction, when considered together, result in the determination that we must start school with a hybrid instructional model.
- Schools in counties with a “green” risk designation may resume in-person instruction “as long as they are able to implement the required health and safety measures.”
- If a school in a “green” county is not able to meet the required health and safety measures such as capacity, transportation, staffing or other factors, they will need to implement a hybrid instructional model.
- When determining the capacity of schools, we considered the required six-foot physical distancing with an allowance for no less than three feet of physical distance being acceptable when combined with the other health and safety measures. After removing unnecessary items from classrooms, we placed student desks and tables and teacher desks six feet apart – to allow a student or staff member to pass through the classroom aisles and still maintain a 3-foot distance while doing so – to determine the capacity of students we could safely accommodate in our school classroom spaces. Those capacities are as follows:
- EEMS (K-4) 260 students
- EEMS (5-8) 240 students
- EHS (9-12) 258 students
Based on the results of our non-binding survey, the following number of students preferred to return to school for in-person instruction:
- EEMS (K-4) 330 students
- EEMS (5-8) 267 students
- EHS (9-12) 403 students
When comparing the capacity of our schools based on the health and safety requirements, the number of students intending to return to in-person instruction in our schools exceeds the capacity of our buildings safely to accommodate that number of students.
When considering all of the above factors, including other factors such as food service and transportation, use of restrooms, providing unified arts programs and others, our schools do not have the capacity to comply with the health and safety to resume in-person instruction for all students who wish to do so. As a result, our only option for an instructional model to open our schools in September is in a hybrid model.
As discussed at the August 3 Board Workshop, we will be presenting the structure of that model at the August 11, 2020 meeting of the Ellsworth School Board.
We are truly fortunate to live in Maine, in particular Ellsworth and other Hancock County communities. The impact of the COVID-19 is less here than in many parts of the nation and world. Much of that is due to the way our community has proactively responded to the onset of the virus to protect our own health and safety and that of family members and fellow community members.
Please know we all want to see conditions improve to the point where we can have our entire student body return to school and a sense of normalcy. While we are still navigating uncharted waters, it is important we continue to take care of ourselves and our families and exercise kindness and compassion for all.