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Maine Expects Schools To Fully Open For In-Person Learning This Fall

Maine schools COVID-19
Robert F. Bukaty
Social studies teacher Logan Landry looks over the shoulder of seventh grader Simone Moore as she works on a project while seated next to a cutout of Elvis Presley at the Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Poland, Maine.

The Mills Administration announced Wednesday that all schools are expected to provide full-time, in-person learning in the fall. And to ensure that can happen, it will relax physical distancing requirements. The administration is also encouraging schools to participate in a pooled testing program to help protect students who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Mills Administration says in-person instruction is critical for kids' social and mental development. But physical distancing can be a barrier to bringing all students back to the classroom, so that will no longer be required in the fall. Even though kids under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination against COVID-19, Maine Health Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says it will still be safe.

"We do anticipate with advances in vaccination as well as pooled testing, we really can move to eliminate all of those physical distancing requirements for the fall," Lambrew says.

Maine is offering regular, pooled testing for schools in order to catch cases of COVID-19 early. Summer schools that participate in the program can also eliminate physical distancing. According to the Mills Administration, 88 schools and camps have already signed up.

For now, the requirement to wear masks remains in place.