PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine DOE Launches Social Emotional Learning Curriculum

The Maine Department of Education is excited to announce the release of Maine’s first, state owned and free, PreK-12th grade Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum.

SEL4ME has been constructed by professionals with 50+ years of experience in education, student/parent engagement and staff/administrator professional development. Lessons are aligned with industry established best practices, are leveraged through an equity lens and include over 450 modules that cover PreK-12 scaffolded by grade.

Following research and findings from the Maine’s Opioid Prevention Task Force and Task Force on Childhood Trauma, incorporating SEL into education is evidenced to be a primary prevention and trauma informed practice and the DOE is dedicated to meeting the social emotional and mental health needs of our educators and students. The SEL4ME curriculum honors Maine’s strong history of social emotional learning and is flexible by design so that it can be used as an additional support for existing SEL, health or counseling programs, while also being a reliable and foundational way to enable schools to create brand new SEL programs across our State.

What we have here is only the beginning! The SEL4ME Team, consisting of diverse Maine experts and stakeholders, will continue to edit, add and develop new SEL content, ensuring that our State’s unique SEL needs are met. Moving forward, expect the curriculum to expand from classroom supports to include school and district wide resources in the structured, best practice use of SEL throughout school culture. While this curriculum is not a requirement, research shows that the benefits of incorporating social emotional learning into our schools are significant and the SEL Team will be providing free training and support to educators looking to use the SEL4ME curriculum.

We hope that every Maine educator will take advantage of this free, readily available and low barrier, SEL curriculum to supplement everyday classroom instruction or to assist with remote learning. We will continue to grow SEL4ME with your feedback and support!

Thank you for your dedication to Maine youth.

Please use these links below to access the new SEL4ME curriculum, trainings and support:

For further questions, please contact Kellie Bailey, Maine DOE Social Emotional Learning Specialist at Kellie.Bailey@maine.gov.

Mills Administration Updates COVID-19 School Health Advisory System

Waldo County moves to yellow, all other counties remain 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 by color and that is provided to assist schools as they continue with their plans to deliver instruction and support students safely this fall. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) assessed the data and trends for all counties. Based on this assessment, Waldo County is now categorized as yellow. All other counties remain green.

In Waldo County, the number of new cases per 10,000 in the last two weeks has climbed to 14.4 and the positivity rate is 1.4 percent, higher than all other counties in Maine. No outbreaks have been identified at Waldo County schools at this time. As previously reported by Maine CDC, individual cases associated with an outbreak investigation originally centered on Brooks Pentecostal Church have been identified at four schools in the county: Ames Elementary School in Searsmont, Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast, Mount View Elementary School in Thorndike, and Lighthouse Christian Academy, a school affiliated with the church. There is not currently evidence of transmission in the schools. Waldo County will continue to be closely monitored.

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 red, yellow, or green designation:

Symptom Screening at Home Before Coming to School (for all Staff and Students) – Students (parents/caregivers) and staff members must conduct self-checks for symptoms prior to boarding buses or entering school buildings each day.  Schools should provide information to families in their primary language to support them in conducting this check.   Any person showing symptoms must report their symptoms and not be present at school.  Schools must provide clear and accessible directions to parents/caregivers and students for reporting symptoms and absences.

Physical Distancing and Facilities – Adults must maintain 6 feet of distance from others to the extent possible. Maintaining 3 feet of distance is acceptable between and among students when combined with the other measures outlined in this list of safety requirements.  6 feet of physical distancing is required for students while eating breakfast and lunch, as students will be unable to wear masks at that time.   A “medical isolation space” (separate from the nurse’s office) must be designated for students/staff who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms during the school day. Adequate ventilation is required for classrooms, with schools having flexibility in implementation such as using properly working ventilation systems or outdoor air exchange using fans in open windows or doors. Groups in any one area, room, or classroom must not exceed the Governor’s gathering size limits.

Masks/Face Coverings – Adults, including educators and staff, are required to wear a mask/face covering. Students age five and above are required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth.  Masks are recommended for children ages two to four, when developmentally appropriate. Masks/face coverings must be worn by all students on the bus. Face shields may be an alternative for those students with documented medical or behavioral challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings. The same applies to staff with medical or other health reasons for being unable to wear face coverings. Face shields worn in place of a face covering must extend below the chin and back to the ears. An exception for wearing a mask or face shield applies only to an individual participating in voluntary school sports during vigorous physical exercise. Nothing in the mask/face covering requirements should be interpreted as preventing a school from making accommodations on an individualized basis as required by state or federal disabilities laws.

Hand Hygiene – All students and staff in a school must receive training in proper hand hygiene. All students and staff must wash hands or use sanitizing gel upon entering the school, before and after eating, before and after donning or removing a face mask, after using the restroom, before and after use of playgrounds and shared equipment, and before and after riding school transportation.

Personal Protective Equipment – Additional safety precautions are required for school nurses and/or any staff supporting students in close proximity, when distance is not possible, or when student require physical assistance. These precautions must at a minimum include eye protection (e.g., face shield or goggles) and a mask/face covering. Classrooms and/or areas that have been used by an individual diagnosed with Covid-19 must be closed off until thorough cleaning and sanitization takes place.

Return to School after Illness – Sick staff members and students must use home isolation until they meet criteria for returning to school.

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 as a way 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 this fall. 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.

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An Innovative Approach to School Drama: Filming Begins on the MDI High School’s Fall Musical

BAR HARBOR – MDI Drama began principal photography on its 2020 fall musical, “Ruddigore; or The Witch’s Curse,” this weekend in Acadia National Park. Determined to provide an authentic and safe drama experience for students and the community, the staff and senior student representatives of the Mount Desert Island High School’s drama program decided that filming the show would create opportunities for innovation and new learning while adhering, not only to the school’s COVID-19 protocols, but to the state’s regulations on live performances and the MPA’s guidance on co-curricular activities.

The Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, which is in the public domain, has been adapted by director Frank Bachman and music director Anne Leonardi and trimmed to approximately forty minutes. Jeff Zaman, who teaches filmmaking and design thinking classes at the high school, is the director of photography.

MDI Drama staff members were aware throughout the spring and summer that flexibility might be required in order to produce MDIHS’s annual fall musical, particularly after the cancellation of the Maine Drama Festival and the school’s annual two spring plays. They did not want to cancel a fall production if they did not have to. Casey Rush, the director of MDI Drama, began online discussions with the adult staff and senior representatives of student actors and tech crew members in late summer to brainstorm possibilities when it became evident that they would not be able to proceed with the fall season in the usual way. On the basis of the experiences of livestreaming the drama department’s annual Bravo Awards and the high school’s successful drive-in graduation in the spring, and with the support of the school’s administration, the team decided that the most interesting and safest option would be to film the production and present it as a drive-in movie at the high school. 

Filming the musical outdoors on location has enabled the actors to abide by safety protocols while experiencing a different kind of acting. A closed set limits the number of people present, and actors only unmask when they are about to film their scene and are appropriately physically distanced from the crew and other actors. The tech crew is learning about the different creative considerations for sound, lights, and set design in filmmaking while incorporating Covid-19 mitigation protocols as well as the intricacies of creating safe sound recording situations for the singers and “MacGyvering” sound booths in cars, as well as how to use new equipment and computer programs.

Some scenes will be shot indoors on the stage of the MDIHS Higgins-Demas theater, where physical distancing and sanitizing protocols are in place. Group numbers will be created in post-production using footage of individual actors and dancers. Rehearsals are primarily online, with some in-person rehearsals held outdoors, weather permitting. The tech crew meets once a week for physical builds, following the school’s protocols on mask wearing, hand sanitizing and physical distancing, and has online sessions to learn the principles of designing for theatre and the computer-based programs they will have to use.

This story was submitted by Chris Dougherty, Learning Center, Mount Desert Island High School in partnership with Jason Anderson, Maine DOE VPA Specialist 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.

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Jason Libby

Maine DOE team member Jason Libby is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Jason in tis brief question and answer.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Postsecondary and Educator Preparation Coordinator for the Department. I work with multiple stakeholders including the State Board of Education, public and private postsecondary institutions, US DOE, and members of the public in a variety of ways. Some specific job responsibilities include working with our approved educator prep programs, administering the Aspirations early college program, and degree-granting authority requests. I also have the chance to work with some great colleagues in educator effectiveness, educator excellence, adult education, and certification.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy working with our postsecondary partners in preparing tomorrow’s educators and workforce as well as managing the Aspirations program which assists high school students in taking classes that lead to college credit. The early college program is an investment in secondary students in Maine and has a positive influence on their post-high school success.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I have worked in a few different areas throughout my career including higher education administration, teaching at the college level, nonprofit management (historic preservation and museums), and policy analysis. When this position became available three years ago, I was very excited to be able to have the opportunity to work in the Department again (I was an intern in Special Services in 1999).

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I volunteer with some local and statewide nonprofits and enjoy collecting historic memorabilia and books. I am currently in the process of collecting data for my dissertation research at the University of Southern Maine which has been extremely interesting work. Since the pandemic, my wife, two sons, and I, have been getting out and exploring the natural landscape in the region more so than before.

U.S. Presidential Scholars Program Seeks Nominees

The Maine Department of Education invites school districts to nominate graduating high school seniors for the U. S. Presidential Scholars Program. Each district may nominate one senior who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent U.S. resident and has demonstrated excellence in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program and one senior who had scored exceptionally well on either the College Board’s SAT or the ACT of the American College Testing Program. Application materials will be sent directly to superintendents and CTE directors by Wednesday, October 28. Applications are due to the Maine DOE by Friday, November 13.

Students chosen as U.S. Presidential Scholars receive an expense-paid trip to Washington, D. C. in June, and are presented the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House, in commemoration of their achievements. During their visit to Washington, scholars have access to important national and international figures, including government officials, educators, authors, musicians, scientists and other accomplished people.

For more information please contact: Dwight A. Littlefield, State Director for CTE at dwight.a.littlefield@maine.gov, or Joe Schmidt, Acting Coordinator of Secondary Education at joe.schmidt@maine.gov.