As schools across Maine consider if and when they will return to in-classroom learning this fall, they must follow a newly updated framework released by the Maine Department of Education in conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The updated "Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction" was released July 17 and includes health and safety precautions that all schools must follow to protect students and staff, Gov. Janet Mills said. A previous version of the framework had been released in June.
"These steps are not intended to be used as requirements or mandates, rather they should be viewed as customizable starting points and resources for school administrative units (SAUs) in the difficult work of planning for the fall," according to the framework.
3-Tiered Health Advisory System
School superintendents and school boards will be provided with public health guidance in the form of a three-tiered health advisory system to help them make decisions on whether to bring students back to the classroom, Mills said. That tiered system was developed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC and takes into account public health metrics on a county by county basis, the governor said.
The tiered system will be broken down into colored levels of COVID-19 risk and based on recent coronavirus case rates, positivity rates and syndromic data, Mills said.
Colored Tiers Indicate COVID-19 Risk Level
A colored tiered level of red would indicate that a county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction should not be conducted, according to the framework.
A yellow tier would indicate the county has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread and that hybrid instruction models should be followed.
A green tier would indicate the county has a relatively low COVID-19 risk and that in-person instruction can be adopted, according to the framework.
Should schools decide to return to in-person learning, the key precautions schools must take include:
- Symptom screenings before coming to schools
- Physical distancing within school facilities
- Wearing face coverings
- Practicing proper hand hygiene
- Wearing personal protective equipment when in close proximity to students
- Remaining isolated at home if sick until meeting criteria to return to school
The new framework, Mills said, will be financially supported by nearly $165 million in Federal CARES Act funding. It comes as the Trump administration continues to push states to reopen schools.
In an effort to help schools make their decisions on whether or not to bring back students to the classrooms, the health advisory system will be posted on the Department of Education website beginning July 31 and updated biweekly, according to the framework.