On Thursday, September 24, after a focused review of data and lengthy and thoughtful deliberation, the Yarmouth School Committee voted unanimously to maintain the Hybrid mode of instruction for all Yarmouth schools until such time as we can meet the requirements for physical distancing required by the Maine Department of Education in its Framework for Reopening Schools (or until those guidelines are adjusted or removed). In essence, we will be remaining in the current instructional mode and following the current schedule for the foreseeable future, while continuing to seek solutions that will allow us to increase in-person instruction for all students.
The School Committee on July 30 adopted a plan to begin the year in the Hybrid mode, with the stated intent to review relevant data and make a determination as to the instructional mode to be followed after October 2 (see slides 10 and 36 of the presentation from that evening). It has been – and continues to be – our desire and intent to move toward a more inclusive model of instruction, and educators at all schools have been working diligently and creatively to develop solutions to the challenges that are presented by the physical distancing standards. To date, we have created outdoor learning spaces, hired additional staff to allow for splitting up of student groups, made use of larger facilities at meal times, expanded open campus allowances at the High School, and created complex routines and schedules at each school that allow us to meet the expectations to which we are held as a public school department.
Still – moving from the Hybrid mode to the All-in mode is unattainable at this time. We are short approximately one dozen employees from the plan we hoped to implement to meet standards in the Hybrid setting, and we would need approximately one dozen more to move further toward the All-in mode. While funding has been provided through December 30 from federal relief funds, recruitment has been difficult, and the applicant pool is empty at this time. Similarly, our list of available substitutes has dropped from more than 110 to 25 – and those individuals are shared among several school districts. Already this year, with minimal staff absences to date, we are experiencing days where positions are left unfilled – a situation that is likely to worsen as the school year progresses.
While this realization is difficult for all of us, it provides educators in our schools the opportunity to focus more clearly on improving our Hybrid instructional model. We know that this model is not ideal, and that in-person learning five days per week is much preferred for many reasons. By examining our current model more closely, we will be better prepared when the day comes – and there is little doubt that it will come – when we move to the all-remote setting due to outbreaks or workforce shortages.
If you know of individuals who may be qualified to serve in support positions for our schools, please encourage them to view the job listings on our website. If you know of someone with the capacity to serve as a substitute (teacher, driver, school nutrition, nurse, etc.), please encourage them to submit an application through our website.
We are pleased to announce that we have secured more than $93,000 in grant monies to work alongside Yarmouth Community Services to provide additional day care opportunities to the community. As with the school plans, the success of this offering will be dependent on the availability of qualified staff. If you know of someone who may be able to fill a slot in that program, please have them reach out to Yarmouth Community Services at 846-2406.
Please stay tuned to our COVID-19 Dashboard for updates and information.