RSU 16 drops idea of having students return 5 days a week

Steve Collins, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine
·2 min read

Apr. 14—POLAND — Administrators in Regional School Unit 16 decided Tuesday to drop the idea of students returning to five days a week of in-person instruction in the current school year.

"The most prudent decision to make at this time is to stay the course for the remainder of the school year and plan for the full return of all our students in the fall," Superintendent Kenneth Healey and Assistant Superintendent Amy Hediger wrote in a letter posted on the district's Facebook page.

The move follows a week of heated debate within the three-town district — Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls — as some pushed for students to switch to daily, in-person classes, and others urged officials to stick with the existing hybrid model that has most students studying remotely at least half the time.

"Please know this decision was not easy and will no doubt be scrutinized," the two administrators wrote in their letter to the community, "but the number one responsibility of the leaders of RSU 16 is to provide the safest educational environment possible for all our students and staff. In our opinion, at this time, this decision does exactly that."

Informal surveys done by the district found district employees sought to maintain the status quo by an 8-1 margin, while parents and students were more closely divided. A majority, though, opposed making a change.

Healy and Hediger said they made the decision after reviewing listening sessions with parents and educators, reading email comments, analyzing data and monitoring the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in the area.

They said they also weighed "the risks of the virus and the social emotional health toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our staff, students, schools, families, and district and the academic, transportation and meal service changes to student and staff schedules and routine."

During the process, the two said, "everyone's opinion was heard and considered," and "while you may or may not agree with or might be disappointed or relieved with this recommendation, please know that RSU 16 is fully committed to returning to full-time five days a week in-person instruction for the coming school year starting on Sept. 1."

The school board will be asked Thursday to endorse the recommendation to stick with the hybrid model for the rest of this academic year.