SACO – Thank God it’s Friday. I am not sure how many times I’ve muttered that to myself over the years, but today will not be one of them. Many teachers in school districts around the state have already returned to the classroom, and this coming Monday, it will be my turn. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous.
When we left the classroom in mid-March, I never would have guessed that we wouldn’t return until September, but here we are. In my case, the school where I teach adopted a hybrid model for this fall (only 50 percent of the students in person at any one time). The school worked all summer steadily to ensure that students, staff, and faculty will be safe when the doors are finally opened.
I’m still nervous.
This past July, the Maine Department of Education issued a survey for parents, teachers, and administrators and asked each group some basic questions about school in our state to gauge feelings toward health and safety issues.
The DOE asked respondents if they thought students would effectively be able to adhere to the guidelines and avoid congregating, avoid physical contact, maintain social distancing, and wear masks or face coverings during the school day. I think the results speak for themselves.
Approximately 35 percent of the parents who responded either agreed or strongly agreed that the students would be able to follow the guidelines. Translated: According to their parents, only a little more than one-third of the students will be able to follow the health and safety rules, two-thirds of the students will not.
When it came to the teachers, at the time of the survey, approximately only 17 percent believed that the students would consistently follow the guidelines for health and safety. No translation is needed here.
The administrators and school district leaders responded that they were confident in their school’s ability to implement the health and safety requirements. A little more than 55 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they would be able to keep students from congregating; that students would wear masks or face coverings, and that they would be able to keep students socially distant from one another.
It will be an interesting first few weeks of school and, as I said to another teacher today. “I am sure there will be things that we have to change as we determine what works and what doesn’t, but everyone wants this to succeed.”
Monday will be the beginning. I’ll let you know how we make out and what I hear from other schools, teachers, and administrators around the state.
Take care, and stay safe.