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U. Maine system will allow some remote learning during first two weeks of semester

Javin Lujan-Trujillo
Cedar Attanasio
Javin Lujan Lopez, 17, a senior at at Pojoaque High School logs into a remote learning site on his laptop, at his home in Espanola, N.M., Feb. 22, 2021.

The University of Maine System says it's giving individual schools and programs more flexibility to teach in hybrid or remote formats for the first two weeks of the semester, as students return to campus during the latest COVID-19 surge.

Chancellor Dannel Malloy says that the system is still prioritizing in-person learning, but he acknowledged that the spread of the omicron variant could temporarily challenge those plans for some students and staff.

Because of that, the system is allowing colleges and individual departments to consider hybrid or remote learning options for the first two weeks of the year. Malloy said local conditions, such as COVID case counts, medical risks, and childcare, will shape those decisions.

"We're not moving large-scale, from in-person learning to online learning. We're just being realistic that it appears the current variant has a few more weeks to go before it reaches its peak, and we're just taking that into account," he said.

University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings said the school's College of Science, Technology and Health plans to mostly continue with in-person classes, with certain remote back-up options. But its College of Arts, Humanities and the Social Sciences will go online.

"What we're finding is overwhelming desire from the programs in the department to move into that format for the first two weeks, which is what we decided as a system. And I think it's consistent with that decision," Cummings said.

Meanwhile, University of Maine at Orono President Joan Ferrini-Mundy says that the school does have the option to "pivot briefly" to remote learning for certain concerns, but its priority is in-person learning.

Brunswick's Bowdoin College is moving to remote learning for the first week of class because of the effects of the latest surge. Other schools have delayed the start of the semester for a week.