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Maine school officials say new guidelines could ease the pandemic's stress on school staff

brooke and student.jpg
Esta Pratt-Kielley
Maine Public
School social worker Brooke Proulx speaks with a student during morning advisory at Gorham Middle School. Proulx said she has been using the advisory period to work on social and emotional skills with students, like resolving conflicts, self-regulation and responsible decision-making.

Maine school officials say new state guidelines will help to ease the pandemic's burden on school administrators — and keep more students in class.

The state Department of Education met with superintendents from across the state to discuss the changes on Monday. The protocols, released last week, reduce isolation and quarantine times for students and staff. And students exposed to the virus outside or on a school bus, where masks are required, will no longer be considered "close contacts."

Eileen King, the executive director of the Maine School Superintendents' Association, said that policy, in particular, will make it far easier for administrators and school nurses to contact trace, which schools say can often take hours for a single case.

"That took a significant amount of time. Then the notification, then the letters that have to go home, and the phone calls and everything. I just think this is a much more realistic approach to keeping our kids safe," King said.

King said shorter isolation times should also make it easier to keep teachers in the classrooms. Staff shortages forced several schools to temporarily move to remote learning last fall.