MEDIA RELEASE: Department of Education Fall 2020 Survey Data Released

Contact: Kelli Deveaux
August 12, 2020

Today, Maine Department of Education released the data received from over 40,000 parents, educators, and education leaders from across Maine.

On July 6, 2020 the Maine DOE released a series of surveys about the 2020 school year during COVID-19 as part of an ongoing effort to gather input from families, communities, educators, leaders, and educational stakeholders across Maine. This information was aggregated by an independent research group and reported to the DOE for consideration.

The DOE staff continue to have ongoing conversations with educational leaders, state leaders, and health experts to develop health markers and corresponding guidance to ensure the safe return to in-classroom instruction. It will also inform the technical assistance and supports that the DOE will provide to our school community members, including educators, families and students.

Recognizing that the greatest value is in the feedback gathered locally, Collaborative Planning Teams for each school unit across the state have also facilitated the critically important local conversations as to the unique variables, resources and needs within each school community; the state and county data compiled from the DOE survey will be one of many resources that will guide the processes and decision making regarding instructional models for the 2020-2021 school year.

“I am extremely grateful to the tens of thousands of individuals across Maine who took the time to fill out these surveys,” said Commissioner Pender Makin. “Their input is not only deeply appreciated, but it is critical as we further develop our guidance to schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to have conversations with leaders across the state about education in Maine. We remain committed to providing support and leadership during these uncertain and unprecedented times.”

Survey information by group, county and question, along with initial considerations and actions, can be found on the Department of Education webpage: https://www.maine.gov/doe/fall2020survey

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Student Cabinet, Governor Mills Release COVID-19 PSAs for Maine Youth

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) and the Children’s Cabinet teamed up with the Maine DOE Student Cabinet to create and launch a series of COVID-19 public service announcements (PSAs) created by Maine students for Maine students.

The youth PSAs feature members of the Maine DOE Student Cabinet in a series of videos that talk about staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The PSAs will be posted on social media throughout the remainder of the summer and into the 2020/2021 school year to help remind Maine’s youth to stay physically active and mentally healthy even while social distancing and wearing face coverings to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The PSAs can be viewed at the following links:

Governor Janet Mills has also created a special video for Maine’s youth acknowledging how much they have sacrificed during the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to thanking them for their efforts and emphasizing the importance of their resilience moving forward.

“I want to thank you for the role you are playing in keeping our state safe and healthy,” said Governor Mills in the video. “This is a challenging time for everyone all across the country, but especially for you.” View Governor Mills’ full video message below.

 

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MEDIA RELEASE: Mills Administration Releases Guidance to Assist Schools with Fall Plans

Health Advisory System reflects relative risk by county, updated requirements to safely reopen schools promote public health

AUGUSTA — The Mills Administration today released updated guidance to assist school communities in making their decisions about how to resume instruction this fall in the face of COVID-19.  This guidance includes the Health Advisory System that classifies counties’ relative risk by color as well as updated requirements for schools to reopen safely.

The Health Advisory System is a collaboration among the Maine Department of Education (DOE), the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC). The previously announced classifications were developed to categorize counties based on quantitative and qualitative data about COVID-19 including, but not limited to, recent data on case rates, positivity rates, and syndromic data (e.g., symptoms of influenza or COVID-19). This system categorizes counties by three-color based designations: red, yellow, and green.

The initial assessment released today showed that 16 Maine counties are currently categorized as “green,” suggesting a relatively low COVID-19 risk at this time and that in-person instruction can be adopted as long as schools can implement the six Requirements for Safely Opening Schools in the Fall. While COVID-19 remains more prevalent in Cumberland, York, Androscoggin, and Sagadahoc counties than in other Maine counties, the assessment pertains to the unique circumstances of schools and currently indicates relatively limited risk statewide. All counties, like the state as a whole, have COVID-19 prevalence below that of virtually all other states.

Circumstances could change between now and the official start of the school year. The Health Advisory System reflects ongoing analysis of evolving data. It will be updated every two weeks, serving as one piece of information that school and district leaders can use to make decisions about how to deliver education this fall.

“Today, we are providing additional guidance to school districts as they decide how to proceed with the school year,” said Maine DOE Commissioner Pender Makin. “While I’m grateful to know that our state continues to be relatively safe due to the vigilance of Maine people, this risk evaluation is intended to be, and should be, just one of several variables that local school districts take into consideration as they make decisions that are best for their communities. We anticipate that in many cases schools in low risk areas will open this fall using a hybrid learning model in order to best protect the healthy and safety of their students and provide them with the most effective education possible. It is our goal to support them through this challenging time.”

The Requirements for Safely Opening Schools in the fall are required by all schools if they decide to return to in-classroom instruction, regardless of their county’s red, yellow, or green designation to protect the safety and well-being of staff, students, and families. They fall into six categories:

  1. Symptom Screenings Before Coming to School
  2. Physical distancing and school facilities
  3. Masks/Face Coverings
  4. Hand Hygiene
  5. Personal Protective Equipment
  6. Return to School After Illness

A school administrative unit (SAU) may opt for hybrid instruction if its buildings or readiness make adhering to these requirements a challenge.

Maine DOE has updated the requirements based on further analysis and public feedback to its Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction. This includes changing the requirement to wear face coverings to a recommendation for children ages 2 to 4, when developmentally appropriate. This reflects feedback provided by experts and aligns school and child care guidance. It also adds recommendations on school activities like music classes.

Governor Mills announced on July 17 that these science-based health and safety requirements, which follow national best practices, will be financially supported by up to $165 million in Federal CARES Act funding to be distributed to school systems across Maine. The Mills Administration views the funding as an important initial investment to help schools prepare for in-classroom instruction but recognizes that more funding is necessary for ongoing operations. The Administration is hopeful that Congress will provide greater aid to Maine school systems in the coming weeks and months.

“The dedication and diligence of Maine people have kept the state’s COVID-19 infection rates relatively low,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “While today’s assessment reflects that, we continue to urge continued vigilance as we approach the fall.”

“These designations are a tool for local school communities to use as they prepare for the coming academic year,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “They’ll be updated every two weeks based on the latest Maine CDC data analysis and information from medical providers throughout the state.”

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 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.

Given the large and varied nature of counties in Maine, SAUs within a county or spread across multiple counties may adopt a reopening policy that differs from this county-based categorization of COVID-19 risk.  The Health Advisory System can be found on the Maine DOE website in Part I of the Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction: https://www.maine.gov/doe/framework/part-I/#risk

While the county categorizations apply only to schools, Maine DHHS has also updated its guidance for licensed child care providers to align with the Requirements for Safely Reopening Schools. The DHHS Office of Child and Family Services is sharing this updated guidance with licensed child care providers throughout Maine and supporting their efforts to protect the health and safety of their staff and the children and families they serve.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Department of Education Awarded $16.9 Million for “Rethinking Remote Education Ventures” Project 

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has been awarded $16.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rethink K-12 Education Models Funding. Maine is one of 11 States to receive funding. Maine’s project, Rethinking Remote Education Ventures (RREV) offers a multi-pronged solution with a primary goal of generating innovative remote learning models to provide equitable access to high quality remote learning opportunities for all students.

RREV will provide statewide resources and supports through professional development, coursework, and guided engagement in effective use of design processes to empower educators and school leaders as authentic research and development professionals. As new remote learning models are designed and piloted, they will be made widely available through an open-source community of practice platform to support collegial sharing, ongoing critical feedback, and continual revision and improvement to sustain a culture of innovation and to foster statewide access to exciting remote learning models.

“This has been a team effort on the part of our staff and our partners throughout the state,” said Maine DOE Commissioner Pender Makin. “I believe this project will place Maine at the forefront of innovation nationwide.”

The project design centers around the belief that by both building capacity for innovative mindsets in education and supporting the design and implementation of the innovative ideas that are generated, we can develop and support agile, effective, and resilient learning experiences that are responsive to local priorities and improve learning outcomes for all students.

In partnership with the University of Maine and other higher education organizations in Maine, courses in research and development, innovation engineering and design, and others will be made widely available to educators and school leaders. This project involves statewide professional development in innovation and innovative project design, financial support for school units to pilot and collect data on innovative projects designed, coaching and technical support for pilot districts, and an online hub that unites educators statewide as a community of practice to share innovative models, recommendations, tools, and resources.

“We think this project will further empower our educators to become designers, researchers and entrepreneurs,” said Page Nichols, DOE Chief Innovation Officer.

In the coming weeks, the DOE will be reaching out with opportunities to participate in this exciting work. We will invite those with experience in innovative project design to partner with us to design and deliver workshops.  There will be opportunities to enroll in coursework or trainings to build your own capacity in innovative project design, and there will be the chance for districts to receive funding to pilot one of the new models that are developed.  Educators who have taken courses or workshops in innovative project design can apply to become coaches, and we hope that everyone will participate in our online community of practice.

For more information contact Page Nichols at page.nichols@maine.gov.

MEDIA RELEASE: Report Released on Maine’s State and Local Initiatives to Improve Outcomes for Children

On June 24, New America released a report describing efforts to expand and improve early education in Maine: Building Systems in Tandem – Maine’s State and Local Initiatives to Improve Outcomes for Children by David Jacobson. Find the report here.

The report describes the efforts of 13 Maine schools who, in collaboration with partners within their communities, have crafted and begun to implement First 10 plans designed to better support children and their families from birth through the first 10 years of children’s lives by attending to all domains of development, wrap around supports, parenting skills, and transitions across early learning experiences.

Maine DOE sought the help of the report author, David Jacobson, through a Preschool Expansion Grant obtained in 2014.  Jacobson leads the First 10 initiative at Education Development Center.  A list of the 13 Maine school communities and a summary of the project can be found here.

Simultaneously, while the 13 communities were developing their plans, a team composed of specialists from Maine DOE, Maine DHHS, and CDS formed to learn more about First 10 Schools and Communities, other national models, and strategies in which state level administration can engage to support this work at the local level.  Findings from Maine’s work in this area are included in this report along with next steps.

The State Team members from Maine DOE, Maine DHHS, and CDS continue to meet to explore how to expand on this work.  Questions may be directed to Lee Anne Larsen, Maine DOE Early Learning Team Coordinator, at leeann.larsen@maine.gov.