Portland Still Trying to Finalize Plan to Send Students Back to School

Officials in Maine's largest city planned to meet again Wednesday evening to decide on a proposed hybrid plan to put students back in classrooms

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With just weeks until school is set to begin in Maine, officials in Portland are still trying to finalize a plan to send students back safely.

On Tuesday, a five-hour meeting of the city board of education to decide on a proposed hybrid plan to put students back in classrooms ended with a vote to pause the meeting and pick it back up again Wednesday evening.

"It's been challenging for planning purposes," Portland elementary school parent Christa Vo said.

Vo is skeptical of the hybrid model and believes the school district should stick to remote learning for at least the beginning of Fall.

While she's supportive of ideas like outdoor classes, Vo said having children indoors seems unsafe and the reduced school hours called for in Portland’s current plan would be difficult for parents trying to balance work and childcare.

"I know that a lot parents are finding the hybrid model challenging to work with as far as knowing how to plan for their jobs and their childcare needs," Vo said.

Other parents believe the school district has ways to compensate for the childcare problems parents may face and support the plan.

"I think the hybrid model is the best solution," said Adrienne McAuley, who has an 11-year-old son about to start middle school in Portland.

McAuley believes the city's model, which splits students grades K-9 into groups, has them alternate between in-person and remote learning day-by-day, keeps most high schoolers fully remote and gives all students and teachers Wednesdays off to catch up on work, will do enough to mitigate the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

"The consequences are great but the risk feels low," McAuley said of the plan adding that the structure of a school day was important for her son.

The Portland Board of Education was expected to resume its meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Some parents said they remained skeptical a vote would be taken given the amount of public comment expected.

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