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State Gives Maine Schools 'Green' Light To Reopen For In-Person Classes This Fall

Kevin Bennett
Staffers with the Old Town Elementary School ride school buses to deliver lunches to waiting families and students on Abbot Street in Old Town May 14, 2020.

The Maine Department of Education is telling schools across the state that, based on current public health data, they can look at re-opening for in-person classes in the fall.Using a new assessment tool released Friday, the state has given every county in Maine a categorization of "green." That suggests that they have a relatively low risk of COVID-19, despite higher case numbers in Cumberland, York, Androscoggin, and Sagadahoc counties,

"The green designation here is not like the green lights you would find at a drag strip," said Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah at a press briefing Friday on the plan.

Shah says the green indicator in this case is more akin to the one you get when carefully driving into an automatic car wash, "where green means, enter slowly, looking both ways, and being prepared to stop at any moment."

To open, districts will still need to meet several requirements outlined by the state, including social distancing, symptom checks and mask-wearing by teachers and students over 2.

The plan, which is available on the Maine Department of Education website, also details protocols for preparing the facilities for a return to class, and safe handling of students who may exhibit symptoms or come to school unwell.

Despite the go-ahead from the state, some schools have already indicated that they plan to start slowly, using a "hybrid" model of in-person and remote learning, because of a lack of building space or other challenges.

The state says that circumstances could change between now and the beginning of the year, and the DOE will be updating the classifications every two weeks.

Maine Public's Jennifer Mitchell contributed to this story.