FRYEBURG — Schools in MSAD 72 will continue remote learning instruction for the remainder of this school year. Superintendent Jay Robinson shared the news Wednesday, a day after Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin wrote school superintendents across the state recommending they forego classroom instruction until next fall.
Fryeburg Academy announced on Wednesday it also will close out the school year with remote learning. It still plans to hold prom and graduation, but instead of May, it is targeting August for those events due to the COVID-19 virus.
“We just a few moments ago sent a letter to parents letting them know we are going to abide by the commissioner's recommendation,” Robinson said Wednesday.
MSAD 72 covers Molly Ockett Middle School, Brownfield-Denmark Elementary School and New Suncook Elementary School in Lovell, Maine.
"CDC guidance recommends an 8-to-20-week timeframe for avoiding large group/in-person instruction once there is evidence of community transmission of COVID-19,” Makin wrote Tuesday.
“Therefore, I am recommending, with the support of the governor, that you begin to plan to replace classroom/group instruction with remote/distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.”
She added: "I also realize that this recommendation will be difficult for families to hear, given the challenges of childcare and managing school expectations on top of the other significant impacts of this state and national emergency."
Erin Mayo, head of school for Fryeburg Academy, shared news about the 2020 prom and graduation on the school’s website Tuesday. Commencement had originally was to be held May 24.
“It’s increasingly clear that we cannot hold to traditional, currently scheduled May dates,” Mayo wrote.
“Assuming that prohibitive pandemic measures will have been lifted by this time, the Academy will hold the prom at the Old Saco Inn, as planned, on Wednesday, Aug. 12; Baccalaureate will be the following evening, Aug. 13; the Senior Dinner and Class Night will be on Friday, Aug. 14, and Commencement itself will fall on Saturday, Aug 15.”
Mayo had a special message for the Class of 2020: "I regret that you will have such an unprecedented delay between the end of your senior year and these celebratory recognitions,” she wrote, adding, "We’ll make them worth the wait.”
Mayo spoke about remote learning on Wednesday.
"In most respects, aside from the circumstances that require it, online instruction is going quite well," she said.
"We're in our fourth week. We developed a good schedule and have all become more adept at the technology involved; we're also very fortunate to have terrific support from our IT department, technology integration specialist, and some skilled, enthusiastic faculty leaders.
"At this point, we want to fine-tune our understanding of the varied challenges some students are facing so that we can respond well. The kids and their difficulties are very much on our minds, and I think it hits us all anew at different points throughout the day that remote learning — to state the obvious — is just so very remote."
The last day of school for freshmen, sophomores and juniors is June 5.
Robinson said the last day of school for the MSAD 72 schools is scheduled for June 11.
“Due to the fact that many families are using district laptops and that many students have textbooks and other materials, we will be developing a plan to collect all school-owned materials at the conclusion of the year,” he wrote. “Once those plans are in place, we will communicate them to families.
“Finally, and most importantly, we appreciate your continuing support and patience as we do our best to meet students' needs in such an unanticipated and challenging situation. I am very proud of the professional manner in which all of our staff members have risen to the occasion and equally impressed with their willingness to learn as we go and continue improving our approach to distance learning. In conclusion, thank you in advance for your continued patience and support and stay well.”
Robinson said there has been “some trial and error” in getting remote learning up and running. He said some families did not have internet access but several companies help bring them online.
The district will continue to distribute meals to students via school bus on Monday, Wednesday and Friday along its current five routes. This also allows staff to get hard copies of assignments to and from students.
“Families have adjusted,” Robinson said. “We understand that it’s not school as you know it. It’s important that we let parents know that all of sudden they haven’t become school teachers. We need to continue to have contact with students, parents and staff to see how we can support them.”
He added: “This has taught me a lot. I do one of the food runs to Brownfield. It’s been humbling and reaffirming to see people trying to make the most of this situation. People are trying to make this as positive as possible.”