WAVES Is Calling All Educators to Share Your Ideas!

We are pleased to announce a new initiative focused on safely engaging Maine teens, WAVES (Wilderness Activities and Virtual Engagement for Students). Our vision is that every week every Maine teen safely engages socially with a community of peers. Please see Tuesday’s WAVES media release for additional information. In order to learn more about what meaningful and engaging online communities for teens would look like, what the capacity or interest of educators to host such communities is, and how the Maine Department of Education may provide resources and support the creation and elevation of such communities For the Virtual Engagement component of the initiative, we would like to meet with middle and school educators and hear your ideas.

If you or a colleague are already engaging students in online communities outside of the school day, we would love to hear about your work, and consider it as a model for these virtual communities. Our goal is for WAVES to elevate, celebrate, learn from, and perhaps expand on the wonderful work Maine educators are all already doing to authentically engage teens in your communities and throughout the State. Your efforts must not go unnoticed, and we want to learn from YOU.

If you are able to find the time and are willing to engage in a conversation to share your work, provide feedback, and/or inform the design of this initiative, please register for any of the sessions below. Registrants will be emailed a link to the session(s) for which they are registered. Thank you for your time, care and perseverance throughout these challenging times and for your service to Maine students and communities. Your efforts do not go unnoticed and you are deeply appreciated.

If you are unable to make it to a meeting but are interested in the initiative, please reach out to Project Director Sarah Woog (sarah.woog@maine.gov) anytime.

Date/Time: Tuesday, January 19; 4:30-5:30 or Wednesday, January 20; 4:30-5:30
Register Here!

Priority Notice: Mills Administration Updates COVID-19 School Health Advisory System

Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford, and York counties remain yellow; all others designated green

AUGUSTA — The Mills Administration today released an update to its color-coded Health Advisory System that classifies counties’ relative risk of COVID-19 transmission to assist schools as they continue with their plans to deliver instruction and support to students safely.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) continue to review evidence that indicates lower transmission of COVID-19 in schools compared to the general population. Over the last 30 days, the rate of new cases is 27 per 10,000 staff and students, compared to 113 per 10,000 people statewide. This rate of new cases in schools is 24% of the statewide rate for the general population.

DHHS and Maine CDC assessed COVID-19 data and trends for all counties and released the following designations:

  • REMAIN YELLOW: Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford, and York counties continue to see increases in both 14-day new case rates per 10,000 people and positivity rates, exceeding the statewide averages.
  • REMAIN GREEN, REMOVED ASTERISKS: Aroostook County’s positivity rate continues to be above the state average, but its new case rate per 10,000 people has remained steady and is now below the statewide average. Penobscot County’s positivity rate and 14-day new case rate per 10,000 people have fallen below the statewide averages.

All other counties remain in the green designation.

Under the “yellow” designation, which indicates an increased (moderate) level of community risk, schools may consider additional precautions, such as limiting numbers of people in school buildings at the same time, suspending extracurricular or co-curricular activities including competitions between schools, limiting interaction through cohorting, or other measures based on the unique needs of each school community.

These designations are made out of an abundance of caution and for the consideration of school administrative units in their decisions to deliver instruction.

It is essential that school districts across the State of Maine continue to implement plans that adhere to the six requirements for returning to in-person instruction, regardless of their county’s designation.

The Health Advisory System categorizations are defined as follows:

  • RED: Categorization as “red” suggests that the county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction is not advisable.
  • YELLOW: Categorization as “yellow” suggests that that the county has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread and that schools may consider additional precautions and/or hybrid instructional models to reduce the number of people in schools and classrooms at any one time.
  • GREEN: Categorization as “green” suggests that the county has a relatively low risk of COVID-19 spread and that schools may consider in-person instruction, as long as they are able to implement the required health and safety measures.  Schools in a “green” county may need to use hybrid instruction models if there is insufficient capacity or other factors (facilities, staffing, geography/transportation, etc.) that may prevent full implementation of the health and safety requirements.

The county-level assessments are based on both quantitative and qualitative data, including but not limited to recent case rates, positivity rates, and syndromic data (e.g., symptoms of influenza or COVID-19). Those data are publicly posted every week on the Maine CDC website. DHHS and Maine CDC also consider qualitative factors, such as the presence of outbreaks that may potentially affect school-age children.

The Health Advisory System reflects ongoing analysis of evolving data, and serves as one piece of information that school and district leaders can use to make decisions about how to deliver education during the school year. The qualitative and quantitative considerations and data used by the CDC in determining community transmission risk levels for schools can be located here: How County Risk Levels for Maine Schools are Determined

The Health Advisory System can be found on the Maine DOE website in Part I of the Framework for Reopening Schools and Returning to In-Person Classroom Instructionhttps://www.maine.gov/doe/framework/part-I.

The next update will be provided on January 29, 2021. Updating this advisory on a two-week basis aligns with the incubation period for COVID-19 and allows for greater stability in the trend data for small counties.

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Seeking Nominations for Alternative Educator of the Year

The Alternative Education Association (AEA) of Maine is looking for nominations for the AEA of Maine Educator of the Year award.

The purpose of this award is to recognize an Alternative Educator who has provided exceptional opportunities and advancements for Maine’s at risk students. This is a GREAT way to recognize those in Alternative Education who are doing outstanding work and brings attention to the amazing work that is being done around our State.

Click Here for the Alternative Educator of the Year Guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact Lenny Holmes at lholmes@bonnyeagle.org.

Boothbay Region High School Expands STEAM Education Thanks to Generous Donation

Boothbay Region High School will receive $84,000 in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) equipment thanks to a generous donation from Paul Coulombe through Boothbay Region Education Foundation.

“What is exciting about STEAM education that is allows multiple pathways and cross disciplinary opportunities for students to engage and enjoy learning, while building on their individual strengths and learning styles,” said Boothbay Region High School Principal Tricia Campbell.

The Boothbay Register recently did an article about the donation where additional details about the donation and STEAM program can be found.

“Thanks to the incredibly generous gift from Paul and Giselaine Coulombe our students will have access to cutting-edge equipment and tools! A STEAM educational program will help to ensure the development of competencies for today’s global workplace. We hope to build and expand programs to include community-based projects and a professional/educational collaborative in the Boothbay Region,” added Campbell.

Information for this article was provided by Boothbay Region High School as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

MEDIA RELEASE: WAVES Initiative Begins to Build Connections

Latest initiative of the #ConnectKidsNow! Campaign focused on building networks of safe social connection opportunities for Maine students

AUGUSTA–  Today Governor Janet Mills and her administration announced the launch of a new initiative to support the mental health and wellbeing of Maine youth. Wilderness Activities and Virtual Engagement for Students- WAVES is the latest project in the #ConnectKidsNow! campaign and will build a statewide network of online and outdoor opportunities, provided by multiple state agencies and community organizations, for Maine students to interact safely.

The new initiative, directed by the Maine Department of Education (DOE), will deliver on the vision, “Every week every Maine teen safely engages socially with a community of peers,” and is the latest effort to ensure Maine youth have the connections needed for their academic and social-emotional growth.

Using the hashtag #WAVESMaine, the campaign will engage youth through a series of social media challenges and other virtual and outdoor opportunities to connect with peers.  A website of resources and activities, as well as a WAVES Instagram account and Facebook page, will go live on February 1, 2021, providing all youth throughout Maine with diverse opportunities to safely build their social network. Resources and activities will include: access to safe online communities, regular meetings around shared interests, and a searchable and dynamic database of the State of Maine where teens can find current outdoor engagement opportunities in their region or community, such as ice fishing derbies or hiking clubs, for example.

“The Department of Education has provided additional resources and supports for school staff, students and their families since March, and has been focused on ensuring that the nutritional, educational and social-emotional needs of every student are being met,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “WAVES is an innovative take on the deep connections and collaborative spirit that makes Maine both a united and diverse community. Keeping Maine students socially connected to one another, and to the resources and opportunities found in our great state, has both immediate and long-term benefits.”

In response to the inequitable access to the human and internet connectivity that some students have faced with the onset of COVID-19, and through the use of federal emergency relief funds, WAVES joins the other projects of the administration’s #ConnectKidsNow! Campaign, which has included the provision of hotspots for students to connect to online learning, the expansion of broadband, and the development of MOOSE!, a free, online and project-based learning platform.

Maine DOE’s 2020-2021 Student Cabinet, during their most recent meeting held on December 8, 2020, raised the issue of social isolation as one of their primary concerns for Maine students. These concerns, similarly raised by educators, school leaders, and community members throughout the State, have accelerated the development of the new project, for which Washington County educator Sarah Woog will serve as Project Director. During a subsequent meeting with Sarah and other DOE staff, Student Cabinet members provided additional ideas and insight for WAVES.

A priority of WAVES is to elevate, celebrate, support, and increase access to the opportunities for safe social engagement that Maine’s communities and organizations are already providing to our youth. The target audience is Maine students in middle school and high school. These students, in addition to all programs and event providers who work with and to serve this demographic, are welcome and encouraged to contact Project Director Sarah Woog (sarah.woog@maine.gov) to share current work, programming, activities and ideas aligned with the stated vision.

“I am eager to work collaboratively across State agencies and to elevate and support the individuals and organizations already delivering opportunities for safe social engagement,” said Project Director Sarah Woog. “Through these collaborative efforts, and by accessing, listening, and responding to youth voices from every corner and community of our great State, we will deliver on our promise: ‘Every week every Maine teen safely engages socially with a community of peers.’ I am honored to lead this innovative and important project.”

TODAY, ALL Maine teens are encouraged to enjoy the winter weather and enter the first WAVES challenge.

Here’s the challenge:

Using the hashtag “#WAVESMaine” post to Instagram a picture of the Maine outdoors that gives you peace and a sense of gratitude. The winner of the challenge and the first 20 Maine teens who post for the challenge will be awarded a prize, inspired by a group of Maine hikers, a onesie of their choice! The winner of the photo contest will be announced February 1, and will have the opportunity to meet virtually with Senator Angus King.