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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PRIORITY NOTICE: Public Comment Period for Science and Alternative Science Waiver from Public Reporting Now Open

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is seeking thirty (30) days of public comment from October 16 – November 14, 2020, on a waiver application (waiver from §8401(b) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015) to the U.S. Department of Education (USED). The request seeks a waiver from publicly reporting student general and alternate science test data from the Spring 2021 assessment administration.

The U.S. Department of Education requires state educational agencies, when seeking waivers from statutory or regulatory requirements, solicit public comment on the application, respond to public comments, and provide evidence of the available comment period. A copy of the letter seeking waiver from §8401(b) of the ESEA as amended by ESSA can be downloaded with key elements of the request included below:

Federal program affected by the requested waiver

Section 1111(h) of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, requires State and LEA report cards to include information on student achievement on the academic assessments in reading/language arts, mathematics, and science described in section 1111(b)(2) at each level of achievement (as determined by the State under section 1111(b)(1)) for all students.

Maine is seeking a waiver from public reporting for the general and alternate science assessments. Maine’s 2021-2022 ESEA Data Dashboard (Report card) will continue to publicly report alternate assessment results for mathematics and English language arts.  Maine will continue to report the math and ELA/Literacy assessment results to parents through individualized student reports .

Maine will continue to meet all other reporting requirements. Maine specifically requests a waiver from the public reporting of both the general and alternate science assessments performance only.

Sections impacted include:

  • Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(iv)
  • Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(xi) (disaggregation of alt. science data by subgroup)
  • Section 1111(h)(1)(A)
  • Section 1111(h)(2)(iii)

Impact to Student Achievement

There will be no impact to assessing student achievement as all eligible students will continue to participate in the general science and science alternate assessment where applicable. The waiver will permit Maine to not publicly release student general and alternate science assessment achievement data. The Maine Department of Education will only report participation rates related to the administration of the general and alternate assessment in grades 5, 8, and the third-year high school during the 2021 spring administration. During the 2022 spring assessment administration, Maine will participate in the science alternate assessment on-line operational alternate assessment.  Standard setting and post equating in the summer of 2022 would allow for reportable student achievement levels and scores that fall.

Monitoring

Assessment administration will follow all assessment administration policies and protocols. Schools will be provided science data within the confidential reporting platform. Individual Student Reports (ISRs) will be available for bulk download in order to share applicable math and ELA/Literacy student performance with parents/guardians or caretakers.

Continuity of Services to Students

Public Comment

Maine has solicited public comment regarding a request for a waiver from public reporting. This public comment was announced through the Departments Newsroom, social media accounts and through relevant Listservs. Public comment was solicited between October 16th and November 14th, 2020 for a period of 30 days. A summary of comments and the Department’s response is attached with the waiver request. All comments, in support of or against the waiver request should be submitted to Janette Kirk at Janette.Kirk@maine.gov.

 

 

 

MEDIA RELEASE: UTC Business Leadership Instructor Named CTE Teacher of the Year

Amanda Peterson, the Business Leadership Instructor at United Technologies Center (UTC) in Bangor has been named the 2020 Maine Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher of the Year by the Maine Administrators of Career and Technical Education (MACTE). Mrs. P, as her students call her, was honored by Maine Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Pender Makin and Maine Community College System President David Daigler at the annual MACTE conference which was held virtually on October 8th.

(Pictured: Amanda Peterson poses for photos with her family members after being honored.)

 

“This is a period in our history where educators of exceptional character are extra important,” said Commissioner Makin in her remarks honoring Peterson. “Students all crave stability and hope, a reason to believe in their own future. Having your teacher demonstrate clearly and consistently that they care and believe in you is priceless.”

Known for her ability to blend an extraordinary set of abilities in an effort to cater to each and every student, Mrs. P thoughtfully taps into each student’s uniqueness, talents, and dreams by celebrating and them and helping them to confidently grow into their best selves.  She transforms individuals often filled with self-doubt and uncertainty, to individuals who demonstrate self-confidence and direction.

During his remarks, MCCS President Daigler spoke about Mrs. P’s efforts to develop a robust CTE Business program for UTC that helps students earn college credit. “Currently Ms. Peterson offers 12 EMCC Business courses and additional courses from 2 other Maine higher education institutions, bringing her total course offerings to 14 college courses or 42 college credits.  Delivering a demanding college level curriculum to high school students is challenging.  Having over 90% complete with A’s and B’s based on locked 3rd party and college summative assessments is phenomenal. This level of learning, with students widely becoming able to reach and function in Bloom’s Quadrant D, occurs because of her dedication, belief system, and understanding of experiential education.”

Maine Administrators of Career and Technical Education (MACTE) administers the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher of the Year Award, which recognizes teachers who are providing outstanding career and technical education programs for youth and/or adults in their respective fields and communities.

Peterson has a Master’s of Science in Education and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business from Husson University and an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Thomas College. She has 25+ years working in a family small business, (farming, restaurants, general stores), in addition several years in industrial education experience, instructing, banking, IT support, finance, and small business ownership. Peterson is a certified Maine CTE instructor in Business Education, Information Technology and Cooperative Industrial Training.

 

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MEDIA RELEASE: Maine State Board of Education Chairman Wilson G. Hess Receives National Public Service Award

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) today announced that Maine State Board of Education Chairman Wilson G. Hess is one of three  national recipients of NASBE’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award. This national award honors current and former state board members who have made exceptional contributions to education. It is given to three outstanding leaders each year and is the highest award NASBE can bestow on a state board of education member.

Wilson G. Hess is chairman of the Maine State Board of Education. A member of the board’s Legislative Action Committee, he excels in building relationships with local, regional, and state legislators. Hess has been particularly instrumental in ushering in policies on higher education, career and technical education, school construction, and expanded internet access.

“He is a tireless educator who does not sit on the sidelines,” said board colleague Fern Desjardins, who nominated Hess. “Wilson was in constant contact with the Department of Education and other legislators this year on CTE matters and expanding broadband access to rural communities. Both initiatives received boosts in funding as a result of his efforts.”

Another board member, John Bird, notes of Wilson: “He enables me to be more effective [as a board member]. He understands the politics of education and the framework of education in Maine. He attends to details while focusing on a broader vision to make something better happen.”

Hess worked over 40 years in higher education, including more than 20 years as college president in private and two- and four-year public institutions. As president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent, Wilson instituted a series of successful online degrees and the state’s largest dual enrollment early college program. He is involved in several advisory councils, boards, and committees in higher education and countless other business, entrepreneurial, economic, and development initiatives. An active member of NASBE, Hess has served on the editorial advisory board since 2016.

“The 2020 Distinguished Service Award winners represent the very best in citizen leadership in America,” said NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull. “State boards of education remain a steadfast bastion of nonpartisan discourse and policymaking at its very best, and this year’s distinguished service awardees represent all that is good about that process. Strong proponents of stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, and a firm focus on equity are but a few of their stellar traits. Hats off to our 2020 Distinguished Service Awardees!”

Other award recipients were Dr. John Kelly, vice chair and previous chair of the Mississippi State Board of Education and Maria Gutierrez, the longest-serving member of the Guam Education Board.

The 2020 Distinguished Service Awards will be presented October 21 at NASBE’s virtual annual conference. Learn more about the conference.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE and DHHS Release Dashboard of COVID-19 Cases in Maine Schools

Maine DOE and DHHS Release Dashboard of COVID-19 Cases in Maine Schools

AUGUSTA — Today, the Maine Department of Education (DOE), in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released an online dashboard of COVID-19 cases in Maine schools, complementing the information provided by schools to help parents, students, and staff make informed decisions about their health and safety.

The dashboard lists pre-K through Grade 12 public and private schools that have one or more COVID-19 cases among Maine residents, including those that have had an outbreak of COVID-19 that remains open, within the last 30 days. Cases are included if the infected individual lives in Maine and is associated with the school (as either a staff member or student) and was physically present on campus, including participating in group school activities such as sports. The number of cases is suppressed to protect privacy in any school with fewer than 5 cases.

The Departments will update this dashboard, which is posted on the DOE website, every Tuesday and Thursday.

In the last 30 days, four pre-K through 12 schools have had COVID-19 outbreaks: Sanford High School, Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro, Community Regional Charter School in Cornville and Skowhegan, and Coastal Ridge Elementary School in York. During the same period, 55 other schools had at least one case of COVID-19, including out-of-state schools with Maine residents. Including both confirmed and probable cases, 112 cases have been associated with schools to date this school year.

The rate of COVID-19 in schools in line with the overall prevalence of COVID-19 in Maine. With 223,813 students and staff in Maine schools, the number of cases represents a case rate of 5.0 per 10,000 over the past 30 days. The rate for the entire state over the same period was 6.7 per 10,000.  The demographics of people in schools differ from that of the state, accounting for some of this difference.

Maine CDC works with DOE to respond to cases of COVID-19 associated with schools, including contact tracing, as outlined under a standard operating procedure. Additionally, DHHS has deployed on-site testing at Sanford High School and Massabesic Middle School in partnership with the schools’ administrative units. The Mills Administration has worked with schools on procedures to prevent and limit school-based spread of the coronavirus. It issued guidance in July through the Framework for Reopening Schools and Returning to In-Person Instruction that has been periodically updated. It has also provided technical assistance and up to $329 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to support implementation of health and safety protocols during the pandemic.

This new dashboard is part of the Mills Administration’s approach to COVID-19, which is to provide information, support, and policies to balance safety with re-opening Maine’s economy and schools.

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