PRIORITY NOTICE: Reminder to April Vacation Travelers – Test for COVID-19 Upon Return

Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew released an important reminder in the Bangor Daily News recently for Maine students and families traveling during April vacation, and noted that our case numbers, and the number of young people getting sick from COVID-19 is on the rise.  The Maine Department of Education would like to underscore her important message to all members of Maine’s school communities, as we urge everyone to help keep our students and schools safe after April vacation week.

COVID-19 is a well-known world traveler. Variants of concern previously identified from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa have been detected in Maine. People traveling have been known to cause outbreaks, often unknowingly, once they return home if they’re not yet experiencing symptoms.

This is why testing for COVID-19 remains critical. Getting a test is simple, free and protects you, your family and your community. It identifies people infected by the virus early, often before symptoms appear. And getting a test when you have a fever, headache, chills, fatigue or difficulty breathing allows you to determine if you have allergies, a common cold or if this is the highly contagious and serious virus. If you test positive, you can isolate to limit the number of additional people infected. You can save lives.

For these reasons, Maine currently requires people traveling to states outside of New England to “test or quarantine.” This means that you must quarantine for 10 days upon return to Maine unless you obtain and receive a negative COVID-19 test from a sample taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival. Maine strongly urges testing prior to arrival; however, for people who test upon arrival in Maine, it is important that you quarantine while you await your test results.

This is especially important for families traveling during the April vacation. COVID-19 transmission in Maine schools is lower than in the rest of the population, thanks to the health and safety protocols Maine schools have consistently followed since last summer. That said, children are still catching and spreading the virus. And a COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been authorized for children under age 16.

The best type of COVID test is a molecular or “PCR” test. The results may take a little longer, but PCR tests have proven to be highly accurate. Rapid “antigen” tests work well for people with symptoms. Such tests may also be used several days in a row — called “serial” testing — as a screening tool. A number of Maine school districts will be offering rapid tests at the end of next week before school resumes on April 26 and again early that week as a way to screen for COVID-19 as people return from the break.

COVID-19 testing in Maine is free of charge. It is available at locations throughout the state, from health care clinics to pharmacies. Learn where you can get a test by visiting the state’s Keep Maine Healthy website or calling 211.

Being fully vaccinated — meaning two weeks after your final dose — exempts you from the need to get a COVID-19 test or quarantine if you travel. You also don’t need to test if you have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days and recovered. We urge everyone age 16 and older to get vaccinated now. Appointments can be found by visiting VaccinateME.Maine.gov, or calling Maine’s Community Vaccination Line at 888-445-4111.

In addition to testing and vaccination, please continue to take the simple steps that have protected the health and safety of Maine people throughout the pandemic: Wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing hands and staying home if you don’t feel well. These measures remain vital whether you’re at home, out in your community or traveling for a well-deserved vacation during the break from school next week.

 

 

 

PRIORITY NOTICE: Still Time to Register for Mental Health Forum on April 1

There is still time to register for the Maine Department of Education’s FREE virtual forum taking place on Thursday, April 1st from 9:00am – 3:00pm.

Supporting Maine Educators: A Forum to Bolster Mental Health in Our Schools.
Date: 
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Time: 9:00 AM EST – 3:00 PM EST
Format: Zoom Webinar

The focus of this forum is to acknowledge the struggles of this past year, celebrate our successes and build resources to support mental health for our school communities. We hope to bring a greater awareness to the importance of mental health, destigmatize mental illness, increase mental health literacy for staff, administrators and community-based agencies, as well as provide practical supports to bolster the mental wellness of students and staff.

This forum will be a six hour event and consist of keynote speakers, with each followed by a related panel discussion comprised of experts from the field, State agencies and community partners, as well as staff and students from Maine schools. This will be a live event and each session will be recorded and available on the DOE website.  This is a FREE event!

For More Information and to Register

PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine Department of Education’s Guidance for Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten Child Find Screening

Maine Department of Education Rule Chapter 101 includes federally mandated Child Find requirements, including timely screening procedures for incoming Pre-Kindergarten (PreK) and Kindergarten (K) students.  As Maine schools begin preparations for spring, summer or early fall screenings, appropriate precautions should be taken.  In addition to the supports that you would typically provide to families based on their needs (e.g. language, culture, transportation), the following screening guidance is provided for school administrative units (SAUs) and their Collaborative Planning Teams  to inform local procedures. 

Prior to In-person Screening
Maine schools are encouraged to use the time prior to scheduling in-person screening to build relationships with guardians of incoming students through an over-abundance of communication. 

The use of online registration for PreK and K students enables schools to identify the students who will be enrolling in programs in the fall of 2021.  As children are registering, schools could send welcome letters that include guardian surveys to begin the screening process.  Guardian surveys can be obtained or developed by: 

  • Accessing one that is already part of the school’s PreK/K screening tool (e.g. DIAL, ASQ, Brigance, etc.). 
  • Purchasing from available guardian screening tools (see Screening Compendium for examples). 
  • Use available standardized developmental screening tools, including the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) or Survey of Well Being of Young Children (SWYC) 

Guardian surveys could be mailed or could utilize technology-based applications.  Phone calls to guardians are recommended in order to answer questions guardians may have, provide reminders about returning the surveys, and obtain information about students that would be helpful in planning for any additional supports necessary to assist the child during screening or in-person instruction. Schools may also consider hosting virtual open houses/meetings to help guardians learn about the school, the staff, the guardian survey, and the screening process. As needed, provide translation and interpreter services throughout the entire screening process. 

Once surveys are collected, schools could use available information to prioritize screenings so that students with greater risk can be scheduled for in-person screening first. Once complete, schools should encourage families to share screening results with their child’s primary care providerThe following guidelines should be considered: 

  • If students were served in a public PreK and guardians /teachers had no concerns, screening does not need to be repeated for Kindergarten entry, this applies for those who had vision and hearing screening completed in PreK as well. 
  • If students were served by Head Start, schools should connect with the sending Head Start program to gather information from their screenings.  It is likely those students will not need to be re-screened. 
  • If students have current IEPs, screening is not needed. Transition planning should be occurring, and students will most likely be re-evaluated in the fall and/or can complete other screening requirements (e.g. health screens) later. 
  • Schools may consider seeking guardian releases for screening information, including lead testing, developmental, hearing, and vision screenings that have been conducted by health care providers and/or other private services. 
  • Of the remaining students who need to be screened, use the information from the guardian survey to prioritize students, scheduling students at greater risk first. 

To assist in providing a smooth, safe, and effective in-person screening process, provide guardians with an explanation of how the screening process will work prior to arriving, utilizing short videos which introduce the process, people, and materials.  This will help them know what to expect and will assist them in explaining the experience to their children.  Also, provide guardians with any additional forms that could be completed ahead of time to reduce the time onsite during screening. 

In-Person Screening
When developing a plan for in-person screening, please consider the following guidance for developing a safe screening environment. 

  • Implement the six safety requirements for schools, and in addition, components of the SAU’s Emergency Operations Plan. 
  • Upon arrival, families must complete a symptoms checklist to ensure that the child and guardian have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19. 
  • Have hand sanitizer available at entry points.  The screener, child and guardian must use prior to beginning each session. 
  • Have supplies available to disinfect screening stations between appointments. Have custodial staff available to disinfect common areas when guardians and children may be traveling to reach screening stations. Follow appropriate guidelines for disinfecting facilities as found in the PK-12 and Adult Education Public Health Guidance. 
  • Work with and include your school nurse and school health advisor in the design of your screening process. Consider, if feasible, seeking support from community medical providers. 
  • Organize screenings to minimize exposures by having one screener completing all aspects of the screening with one student, rather than rotating children through stations with a different screener at each station.  If you want to accommodate more than one student at a time, have multiple screeners spread out, each in their own station, but do not have children rotating between stations.  Screening stations should be big enough to allow for the spacing needed to complete the screening while maintaining appropriate distance between stations.  Consider, in good weather, setting up screening stations outdoors. 
  • Ensure adherence to the gathering limits, established in Executive Order 35 FY 20/21. 
  • Limit screening to one guardian (when possible) per child with no other family members (such as siblings). 
  • Stagger the arrival times so that there is time between guardians and students entering the school and moving to their assigned screening locations. Make sure the entrance point for screening is clearly identified. 
  • Clearly mark the traffic flow for entering and exiting screening stations and for leaving the school.  Consider having a minimal number of additional staff on hand to help with traffic flow, as necessary. 
  • Guardians should remain outside of the screening area.  If children are uncomfortable about or unwilling to be separated from their guardian for the screening, it may be necessary to wait to complete the screening until after the school year begins and children have grown more comfortable. 
  • Screening of medically fragile students may need to be postponed until conditions improve, scheduled to avoid unnecessary exposure to others and should be done in consultation with their health care provider. 
  • If your school collaborates with a Head Start or CDS program, consider enlisting assistance from their trained screening staff. 

Other considerations: 

  • Some schools incorporate additional components in screening beyond what is required for Child Find.  Consider reducing screening to only what is essential, and/or receiving this information from the primary care provider. 
  • If screening during the summer proves to be too challenging, consider using the first couple days of the school year as a time to complete this process. 
  • Use of federal funds through the variety of COVID-19 relief packages to pay for additional expenses incurred by schools to complete screening (e.g. technology-based surveys, staff time in the summer to complete screening, etc.) might be allowable.  Please utilize the existing application approval procedures to inquire about this use. 

If you have additional questions, please reach out to Nicole Madore, Early Childhood Specialist, Nicole.madore@maine.gov or Emily Poland, School Nurse Consultant and Coordinated School Health Team Leader, Emily.Poland@maine.gov. 

 

Supporting Maine Educators: A Forum to Bolster Mental Health in Our Schools

Following up on the Save the Date sent out on March 10, the Maine Department of Education is pleased to invite Maine education personnel to attend Supporting Maine Educators: A Forum to Bolster Mental Health in Our Schools on Thursday April 1st from 9:00-3:00. This is a FREE Virtual event – See the agenda

Featuring: John T. Broderick, Jr.,  Dartmouth- Hitchcock Senior Director of External Affairs and Former Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court; and Joanne P. McCallie, Author and Former Duke, Michigan State, UMAINE and, Auburns Women’s Basketball Coach.

The focus of this forum is to acknowledge the struggles of this past year, celebrate our successes and build resources to support mental health for our school communities. We hope to bring a greater awareness to the importance of mental health, destigmatize mental illness, increase mental health literacy for staff, administrators and community-based agencies, as well as provide practical supports to bolster the mental wellness of students and staff.

This forum will be a six hour event and consist of keynote speakers, with each followed by a related panel discussion comprised of experts from the field, State agencies and community partners, as well as staff and students from Maine schools. This will be a live event and each session will be recorded and available on the DOE website.  This is a FREE event!

Date: Thursday, April 1, 2021
Time: 9:00 AM EST – 3:00 PM EST
Format: Zoom Webinar

For More Information and to Register

The 2021 DON’T QUIT! Campaign Deadline EXTENDED!

One more week to sign up to be in the running for a $100,000 School Fitness Center

The National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils (NFGFC) 2021 DON’T QUIT! Campaign has been extended to March 26th! There is now an additional week to sign up or be nominated.

A nomination puts schools in the running for a $100,000 Fitness Center that will be awarded to three Maine schools that use new and unique methods to promote student physical activity and wellness to help them construct fitness centers. All public and public charter elementary and middle schools in Maine who have a majority of students between the ages of 8 to 14 years old and an available room ready for equipment installation by June 2021 within their existing infrastructure are eligible to apply.

Three schools in each state, prioritized based on need, will be chosen from applicants by NFGFC to receive a brand new, state-of-the-art DON’T QUIT! Fitness Center.

The school nomination form and more information about the program can be found here: https://natgovfit.org/nominate-your-school/

Each fitness center is financed through public/private partnerships with companies like The Coca-Cola Company, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, Wheels Up and Nike, and does not rely on taxpayer dollars or state funding. Fitness in Motion provides all the fitness equipment, which is manufactured in the United States.

Physical activity and exercise are shown to help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases, enhance individual health and quality of life, and reduce health care costs.  In schools, studies show that physical activity improves academic achievement, increases confidence and self-esteem, reduces discipline problems, cuts absenteeism, and fosters better interpersonal relationships.

School nominations will be accepted until Friday, March 26, 2021. Maine people interested in nominating their school can visit  https://natgovfit.org/nominate-your-school/ and click on the Maine state seal to download and submit the short application.