As with many schools around the State of Maine, the nation, and across the globe, planning for the 2020/2021 school year has been an almost impossible task with not knowing what will be around the corner during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those in the trenches of planning is the fearless team at MSAD 11/RSU 11. They have worked tirelessly this summer at engaging their community and being transparent in the processes as they work to respond to the pandemic situation.
“I believe that it is critical that schools continue to highlight their strengths and I’m especially proud of the collaborative work of the district and the process that (MSAD 11 Superintendent) Pat Hopkins has led us through in this district,” said MSAD 11 Director of Curriculum and Instruction Angela Hardy.
The team worked on a process for redesigning their school system by August 24 which included the launch of an 8 committee Return to School Planning Process. A Steering Committee was formed to facilitate the process after first developing a set of guiding principles for their work. The committees were composed of 100 people representing all levels of staff, the School Board, parents, and community members. Seven subcommittees meet weekly or more, led by administrators throughout the summer, to focus on their charge: Facilities/Safety; Food Service; Resources; Transportation; Communications; Core Instruction/SEL/Technology; and, Athletics. Every subcommittee has staff, parent/community, and administrator representation and reported out at the Steering Committee. “MSAD 11 is as prepared as it can be because of the trust our community has of our educators and the commitment our principals and directors have toward the health and well-being of their staff and students. The leadership’s willingness to listen to concerns and their drive to come to creative, thoughtful solutions in a collaborative manner is paramount to this process.” stated the Director of Curriculum.
“Beginning in the spring, Supt Hopkins has kept staff informed at every step as we went through ‘remote learning’ and the end of the 2019-2020 school year. When it became obvious that we would not be returning as normal in the fall, a Return to School Committee was put together. This committee included 20 teachers and additional staff members from a group of employees,” said Dean Hall, President of the MSAD 11 Teachers’ Association, GRMS Social Studies Teacher. “All staff had a chance to serve and those who did serve had a real voice in developing the plan we will be using to start the school year.”
The Steering Committee, the decision making body which recommends to the Administrative Team or School Board next steps, met weekly and livestreamed each meeting and posted the recording on their YouTube page and Return to School Planning website.
The district has also held virtual district-wide staff meetings to respond to staff questions and concerns as they arose. In addition, the superintendent met weekly with every president of each Association to co-design a COVID staff handbook.
“We would like to thank MSAD 11 for their continued commitment to the safety of their students, staff, and surrounding community,” said Chad Greenleaf, President of the Educational Technicians & Administrative Assistants Association. “I applaud the district leaders for their willingness to extend an offer of teamwork. Through the collaborative process that involved representatives from every area of expertise within the school district and community, we were able to assemble a comprehensive yet flexible plan.”
To further engage with community stakeholders, MSAD 11 administrators collaborated with their regional representative from Maine Roads to Quality and hosted a virtual meeting with MSAD 11/RSU 11 daycare providers to help them navigate the district’s online resources and information and to collaborate towards solutions that will support families as they return to school in a hybrid/blended/cohort-based learning model. They plan to continue meeting virtually as the school year progresses to keep open lines of communication and revisit issues that arise.
Virtual parent meetings have also been on-going as the school year starts, with each building principal and the directors of special services to walk parents through the start of the school year, share the district’s newly designed district-wide student handbook, and explain the schedule in greater detail.
“The MSAD 11 community should know their voices were heard. They can be proud of the result we were able to attain through this process,” added Greenleaf. “We remain committed to our student’s education and well-being regardless of the challenges ahead.”
This story was written collaboratively between distinct staff at MSAD 11/RSU 11 and Maine Department of Education staff as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea please email it to Rachel Paling at firstname.lastname@example.org.