Deep Dive Coronavirus

The novel coronavirus is testing our resilience in unprecedented ways, affecting all aspects of Maine life, including public education. Deep Dive: Coronavirus continues with a look at how districts around the state are preparing for the return of in-classroom instruction. We'll explore how teachers plan to keep students safe using altered schedules, outdoor classes, remote learning and other strategies.

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If you or someone you know has something to share about life during the pandemic, write to Maine Public at TellMeMore@mainepublic.org and let us know the best way to reach you.

A editors' selection of stories about the coronavirus appears below. For Maine Public's full coronavirus coverage, click here.

Rebecca Conley / Maine Public

Like many Maine parents, Amanda Hutter was left without a safety net when schools closed and switched to remote learning this spring. Her son is autistic and has behavioral challenges. Without access to special needs child care, Hutter was forced to leave her job in order to support him.

Flickr Creative Commons

On Thursday, the Maine Principals' Association released new COVID-19 prevention guidelines regarding fall sports in Maine high schools.

But some districts cancelled fall sports programs well before they got guidance from the Maine Principals Association. Among them was Deer Isle-Stonington, where Principal Dennis Duquette said boys and girls soccer have been cancelled, but golf and cross country will go forward. Duquette said it is just not possible to maintain social distancing in close contact sports such as soccer.

Courtesy RSU 29

As part of our continuing Deep Dive Coronavirus series, we're looking at how schools are preparing to re-open. To get a better sense of this we're talking this week with two school superintendents in very different parts of the state to understand similar challenges and different approaches as they tackle a complex situation.

Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public

Throughout the summer, Mainers have struggled over the decision of whether or not to send kids back to school. As part of Maine Public’s Deep Dive: Coronavirus project, we spoke with a number of teachers, including English and design thinking teacher Kate Meyer. She works at Mount Desert High School, which will start the year remotely, as it tries to assess the potential fallout from the tourist season before transitioning to a hybrid model September 28.

TED S. WARREN / AP Images

One of the biggest changes that students are facing as schools reopen this fall are new "hybrid" schedules, in which they may go to class just two or three days per week. That is also challenging for many parents who are now scrambling to find child care in a state where access and cost were major barriers, even before the pandemic.

Fred Bever / Maine Public

This week marks the start of a new academic year for most public schools in Maine. There are daunting challenges ahead for teachers, parents, administrators and a generation of children whose progress was stalled when the pandemic hit last spring.

via Gerry French

The return to the classroom this fall has been a major focus not only for parents, administrators and teachers, but also for the people who get up very early to deliver kids to and from school every day. As part of Maine Public’s Deep Dive: Coronavirus project, we spoke with one driver in the Belfast district who has spent a lot of time thinking about the challenges of keeping kids healthy, safe and in school:

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

When COVID-19 first hit Maine last March, school buildings quickly shut down - first for two weeks, then for the rest of the school year - as a way to slow the spread of the virus. Learning continued online, but many students faced a lot of challenges, from limited internet access to the loss of school-based services. Now, as the virus continues to spread, the vast majority of schools are still preparing to open their doors once again.

Courtesy South Portland Schools

South Portland Schools Superintendent Ken Kunin, like many educators, got an unexpected lesson last spring in remote teaching, "It's very different when you're standing in front of your class and you can help them navigate their way through a lesson, through material," he says.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nenadstojkovic/

We discuss how to handle the inevitable challenges that students and families will have to deal with as they return to school—whether it’s online or in-person. We’ll address the range of issues, from mental health and anxiety to the effects of mask-wearing and distancing—especially on younger kids and those with special needs.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

While most schools in Maine are still putting the finishing touches on reopening plans for September, a few communities in northern Maine that have to schedule a break for the potato harvest have already reopened this week.

Lisa Dulac

With about a month until the school year begins in most of Maine, districts across the state are planning to reopen their classrooms, at least partially. But with COVID-19 still spreading, many parents are opting to keep their kids home or to withdraw them from public schools entirely.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

As schools in Maine make plans for how to safely return students to the classroom amid the coronavirus pandemic, some are thinking outside the box — literally.

LM Otero / AP Images

Last week, the state announced that, based on current health data, schools across Maine can consider reopening this fall. Many districts are taking that lead and planning to reopen, at least partially.

Elise Amendola / AP Images

Included in the federal government's array of pandemic relief aid programs is an automatic pause – or forbearance – on federal student loans.

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