Thank you for all you’re doing to support your students and staff!! The pressures on school and district leaders are immense under normal circumstances, and this is magnified to the extreme during a historic, prolonged, emergency situation. Your visionary and steadfast leadership is deeply appreciated, as we recognize that there are daunting obstacles to providing remote instruction and that the inequities are huge.
Because the provision of public education is a covenant between the schools and the communities they serve here in Maine, we’ve asked that you obtain school board approval for your plans for offering continuity of education. Each SAU must have a plan for providing for remote learning, and should be scalable in the event of a longer cessation of classroom instruction.
We are waiving the practice of obtaining DOE approval of these plans as a condition of the minimum school days waiver, and are only asking that you send us the minutes from the meetings where your plans are approved by the local school boards.
Frequently asked questions and recent updates:
Does each district have to separately request a waiver of the minimum number of school days?
We are planning to universally waive the minimum number of school days for all SAUs who receive local school board approval for continuity of education plans. The expectation is that 100% of SAUs are making every attempt to provide continuing educational services for all students. No separate application for the waiver is necessary; simply upload the minutes of the school board meeting where your plans are approved here.
(All who have previously emailed your school board approval minutes are all set!! We simply added this link for convenience and consistency).
If our SAU lacks resources, connectivity, etc., how can we offer remote learning?
We are hearing from many teachers and school leaders from less advantaged communities who are providing some really exciting educational experiences and opportunities for students and who have expressed a desire to share their approaches and plans with others. Daily office hours with our content specialists offer ongoing opportunities for educators to share their innovative approaches, challenges, and successes with one another. If you would like to connect with and learn from others, please reach out to our Chief Innovation Officer Page Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org. who can help to find the right partnerships for guidance or resources.
Which school staff members are essential and should continue to be paid?
All school employees are considered to be “essential” under the Governor’s more recent Executive Order #19, and should be expected to complete all duties and tasks assigned to them. The Governor’s Executive Order #15 requires SAUs to continue to pay all school employees who held contracts prior to the COVID-related disruption, including hourly workers. Further guidance can be found here. Long term substitutes who held a contract that provided reasonable assurance of employment prior to this emergency situation would also qualify for ongoing payment and should be available to provide services as assigned. School employees will not qualify for unemployment under the recent expansion, and should not apply for these benefits. If they have received these benefits, they will be required to repay this to the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation.
How do we get answers to our questions?
We are deeply committed to providing resources, guidance and updated information to our colleagues in education, and will continue to do so through our webpage and emails. But as you are holding regional or organizational meetings, we welcome the opportunity to hear and respond to the questions and concerns of your group. Please reach out to our Director of Communications Kelli Deveaux at email@example.com, and she will coordinate to have a member of the Commissioner’s Office join your meeting. We cannot answer the questions we don’t hear, and we truly want to support your work, so please know this is a genuine request and offer. We are here to help!
Finally – some really good news! The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act). The 3rd relief package will provide LEAs with a large amount of funding with significant flexibility in the use of these funds. This relief package passed unanimously in the Senate, and we expect a House vote and president signature sometime today. The turn-around time between now and when you’d likely receive the funding should be 8 weeks (30 days for us to update applications and 30 days for US ED to approve applications and send funding).
Thanks as always for all you do. Remember that our phenomenal team of specialists at DOE are here to assist you and your building leaders, educators, and staff!
Grateful for all you do to support your students, staff, and communities during this difficult time,