Text of Dr. Foley's Reopening of School Letter - 8-13-2020
Dear RSU5 Families,
As many of you may have already heard, Wednesday night the Board voted unanimously to have us begin school in the yellow/hybrid level. The hope is to move to the green level by October 13. This is contingent upon the COVID data in our three towns remaining stable.
To adequately prepare for our reopening, the Board voted for a change in the school calendar. They decided to delay the students’ return until after Labor Day which will be September 8.
Additionally, the Board of Directors also approved RSU employees to have their school age children (K-7) attend school five days a week if the parents are unable to find adequate daycare.
Students with significant learning disabilities or with significant learning loss will also have an opportunity to attend school five days a week. We want to stress that the recommendation to allow staff’s students to attend five days a week is based not solely on the needs of our teachers, but on the needs of all our students. If the parents cannot work due to childcare, we would have to hire a sub to teach the students in that class, thus impacting the quality of the instruction.
There are many questions surrounding the reopening of school. By the end of the day Friday, there will be a FAQs section on the website under COVID. Please feel free to email me your questions that you would like answered.
I want to thank all of you for your input over the past couple of months. It is truly appreciated. I considered all feedback when deciding what level to recommend that we begin with in September.
It was not an easy decision. Beginning in the hybrid level will enable us to proceed cautiously and still get our children back to school. I hope you and your family have found time to enjoy our wonderful Maine summer. We look forward to welcoming your child back in just a few weeks!
Becky Foley, Ph.D.
RSU 5 Board of Directors Meeting on Reopening of Schools for August 6
Dear Parents and Staff,
Thank you to all who attended the Board meeting last night via Zoom. We truly appreciate the
participant turnout. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the slide presentation on the reopening of
school, Zoom bombers wrote racial slurs, displayed pornographic images, and drew inappropriate
drawings on the slides. It compromised the meeting and the slide presentation had to be removed.
Today we have worked to ensure that this does not happen at future meetings. We are in the
process of obtaining additional security features to our Zoom account. We anticipate testing the new
system Monday and having it operational for Wednesday’s Board meeting.
We were appalled that these images were portrayed to the audience. No one should be subjected to
the racial comments and inappropriate images that were on the screen. We apologize to those who
witnessed it. There is zero tolerance for this offensive behavior in RSU5.
Due to this incident, we are in the process of editing the video recording of last night’s meeting. The
editing is taking longer than expected due to the length of the meeting. The video will be posted
under District News on the homepage of the RSU5 website by this evening.
We hope you can all join us for Wednesday night’s Board meeting.
Becky Foley, Superintendent
Michelle Ritcheson, RSU5 Board Chair
Dr. Foley's Reopening of School Presentation CLICK HERE
RSU5 Advisory Team for the Reopening of School
An Advisory Team for the Reopening of School has been created. The committee will meet twice a month (June 9 & 23; July 7 & 21; and August 4 & 18) from 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Agenda/Meeting Notes from Team Meetings
RSU5 Reopening of Schools Draft Plan
Recap Meetings with the Superintendent 4:30-5:30 p.m.
After each advisory team meeting, the Superintendent will provide a recap of the meeting for the public via Zoom. The link is below.
Meeting ID: 847 0079 3864
Join by telephone: 1 646 876 9923
Recap Meeting Notes
Please note: Superintendent Foley's messages are listed below, with the most recent at the top.
7-31-20 Letter from Dr. Foley
7/6/20 Letter from Dr. Foley
Text of Dr. Foley's letter 4/24/2020
Dear RSU 5 Families and Staff,
I hope that the April vacation brought opportunities for you and your family to take a break from remote learning and enjoy the early signs of spring.
On April 1, the RSU 5 Board of Directors approved our Remote Learning Plan. Since our first day out on March 16, we immediately started planning for the possibility that distance learning could continue for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Our first phase was to provide meals to all students and make sure that our students had internet access for remote learning. Our second phase focused on teachers connecting remotely with students to offer live instruction, and to ensure that new learning continued. We continue to adjust our course of instruction as needed. Our final phase will be to finish strong with teaching and learning until June 19. To keep all students engaged in meaningful learning, much of the learning in June will be focused on projects or interdisciplinary learning, depending on the level of the students. Each principal will communicate more specifics about what the plan entails.
All staff continue to work diligently in their respective roles. There have been questions about why support staff are continuing to be paid their full salaries when they are unable to work all of their hours. This is due to the Executive Order that Governor Mills signed and issued on March 31. While some districts have allowed their essential staff to not work at all during this period, staff in RSU 5 have followed physical distancing guidelines, and are cleaning our buildings, completing deferred maintenance projects, and feeding our students. Other support staff are working remotely, assisting students emotionally and academically through phone calls, emails, or Zoom meetings.
On April 8, Commissioner Makin recommended that all schools continue with remote learning for the remainder of the year, as the data indicated that there would not be a path for having our students return to our classrooms before finishing for the summer. An earlier announcement from her informed us that she will waive the minimum number of student days for this school year due to the pandemic as long as districts have a Remote Learning Plan. Districts across the State are now choosing to end school at varying times. Some are closing a few weeks early and using that time to help only the students who are struggling. Others are using the weeks for professional development for staff. To lessen summer learning loss for all students, we have chosen to continue with remote learning until June 19, our last regularly scheduled day due to our
four snow days used earlier this year.
There are many questions remaining about the budget. We currently have a Board adopted budget. The budget brochure was recently mailed to every household in the District. Since the brochure was published, we have revised the budget timeline due to the State’s revised schedule for elections. The new dates are as follows:
• Annual Budget Meeting - June 17, 2020 @ Freeport High School
• Budget Validation Referendum - July 14, 2020
These dates are still subject to change. I will keep you updated as daily life continues to evolve and revised dates can be accessed through the budget timeline. The Board will also be discussing the budget at the April 29 Board meeting which you can access via Zoom.
Thank you for all you are doing to support your child as we continue with remote learning. I hope you and your family are able to stay well, and will reach out when you need additional support for your child.
Take care and be well,
Text of Dr. Foley's letter 4/8/2020 - Continuation of Remote Learning
April 8, 2020
Dear RSU 5 Families and Staff,
The superintendents just received clarification from Commissioner of Education Pender Makin
that schools must continue to provide remote/distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-
2020 school year. Our last day of remote learning will be June 19.
Since our first day out on March 16, we immediately started planning for this possibility, knowing
that distance learning may well continue for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Our
first steps were to provide meals to all students and make sure that our students had internet
access for remote learning. Our teachers are now connecting remotely with students to offer live
instruction, and ensure that new learning occurs on a regular basis.
As you know on April 1st, the RSU 5 Board of Directors approved our Remote Learning Plan. We
also will take the April vacation as scheduled which includes the professional compensation day
on April 17th. We will continue to provide meals for students on Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays every week, including during April vacation week.
Moving forward our goal is to provide the best opportunities for remote learning. We will
continue to explore all options to provide closure for this academic year. Thank you for all you are
doing to support your child as we continue with remote learning. I hope you and your families are
weathering this crisis as well as possible.
Take care and be well,
Text of Dr. Foley's letter 4/5/2020 - April Update
April 5, 2020
Dear RSU 5 Families,
As we complete three weeks of students not being in our schools, we hope you and your family are doing well. Please reach out to us if we can provide better support to you and your family in any way.
On April 1st, the RSU 5 Board of Directors approved our Remote Learning Plan We know this does not replace having our students in the classroom. The staff in RSU 5 has met the daunting challenge of quickly getting distance learning up and running with minimal training. This disruption provides us with an opportune time to learn so that when we return, we will have new and better ways of teaching and learning.
In accordance with Governor Mills’ mandate, issued on March 31st, RSU 5 schools will remain closed through Friday, May 1st, with a tentative date to re-open on May 4th. Please be aware this return date is subject to change as communities continue to maintain the necessary physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. During this time, our school playground structures are closed to the public as we are unable to clean them after every individual use. We are keeping the track and field open as long as the community remains vigilant about physical distancing. Additionally, play dates of any type are discouraged during this time, unless it is done remotely. Please continue to find other ways to reach out, stay healthy, help those in need, and support one another. Thank you for your understanding.
Along with most other school districts in Maine, we are keeping our current 2019/2020 school calendars as intact as possible, and will take the April vacation as scheduled which includes the professional compensation day on April 17th. There will be no virtual real time instruction from teachers on that day.
On April 1st, the Board of Directors adopted the FY 21 budget. You should be receiving the Budget Brochure outlining key elements of the budget in the near future. Our hope is that there will be a way to hold our annual budget meeting on May 27 at Freeport High School, but this is subject to change. I will keep you informed as changes occur.
We are in this together. I want to thank you for your emails of support during this time. We can’t wait for the day that our students walk back through the doors of our schools! Be well,
Text of Dr. Foley's letter 3/20/2020 - Continued Closing of Schools till 4/27/2020
Dear RSU 5 Families and Staff,
When I wrote to you a week ago, we were hopeful that this would only be a two-week closing period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last week, we have had multiple CDC updates as the number of afflicted people has rapidly increased. As I write this, there are 56 confirmed cases in Maine with 35 of them in Cumberland County, and 3 in Androscoggin County, the counties where our students and families learn and live.
Based upon Governor Mill’s Proclamation of State of Civil Emergency, guidance from the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), our remote learning model will continue and the earliest date of school reopening will be Monday, April 27, 2020. We will continually reassess as conditions evolve. We hope this announcement gives our families enough notice to plan accordingly.
The first few days of remote learning have gone well. Thank you for your patience as we have worked out some of the kinks. During these unprecedented times, families have very different needs. We have the capacity to individualize learning based upon your family’s needs. If you are finding you need support in any way with remote learning, we urge you to contact your school’s principal. We are here to support you and your child.
In order to follow guidance on social distancing, we have closed all buildings to the public, and have shifted primarily to communicating by telephone, email, or by appointment. During the pandemic, we implore you to practice social distancing, which is painful but necessary. Social distancing and handwashing are the two greatest steps we can take to protect our community from the spread of COVID-19. Please stay safe and healthy in the coming weeks.
Becky Foley Superintendent
Text of Dr. Foley's letter 3/14/2020 - Closing of Schools till 3/30/2020
Dear RSU 5 Families and Staff,
I am writing to inform you that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be closing all of our schools for two weeks beginning on Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 27, with decisions on potential longer closures to be made at that time. This applies to all RSU5 facilities, including Community Programs and the Laugh and Learn Program. The immediate plan is for all programs to resume on Monday, March 30th.
After consulting with the Department of Education, other Cumberland County superintendents, and my administrative team, I have determined that this closure is the only responsible action to take. This closure is in response to the call by medical professionals to implement practices of social distancing as we all work to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This closure is not the result of any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our immediate community, though we know the virus is present in Cumberland and Androscoggin County. We are taking this proactive approach out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases in Maine. This will also allow time to disinfect all of our buildings and buses.
On Monday, staff will report to work as usual and will participate in professional development activities in order to provide the best possible remote learning opportunities for students. On Wednesday, March 18, remote learning will begin with teachers providing lessons to students and/or parents. Additionally, meal programming will begin on Wednesday, March 18th. Further information about this will follow in the next couple of days.
We know remote learning will not fully replace the classroom settings that students experience each day. We also know this will be “messy” at times – especially in the first few days – but we are determined to continue to provide learning opportunities for all students, and we ask for your patience and flexibility as we work through what will likely be many kinks in this process. We are aware of the fact that closing schools will be a hardship for all families. For our most disadvantaged community members, it will represent an even greater hardship.
Students and parents will be able to drop by the schools at times designated by your school principal. Please be on the lookout for follow-up letters from your child’s principal.
During this closure, we ask that you assist by minimizing group meetings of students and adults. Practicing social distancing and good personal hygiene are the two greatest steps we can take to protect our community from the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to stay in touch with you throughout these remote learning days. We understand this is a time of great uncertainty, and are here to support you and your children while at the same time doing our best to insure healthy practices for all in the community.
Text of Dr. Foley's letter 3/12/2020
Dear RSU5 Families,
Today, Maine has reported one presumed positive case of Coronavirus 19 in Androscoggin County. The Maine Center for Disease Control (Maine CDC) says we are not yet seeing widespread community transmission in Maine. However, Governor Mills provided some recommendations today that we will be following in RSU5.
Governor Mills is not recommending schools be closed, so our focus is to continue to educate our schools while keeping them healthy and safe. We continue to take the following steps to protect our students and staff:
Enhanced cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in our schools.
Limiting public access to student gatherings.
Encouraging everyone – students, staff, school volunteers and visitors – to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Encouraging everyone to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Encouraging everyone to avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
Avoiding close contact with people who are sick. Encouraging those who are sick to keep their distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Practicing other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Limiting public access to gatherings and activities
On the advice from the Department of Education (DOE) and from Governor Mills, we are canceling all gatherings that involve bringing large groups of people into the schools (e.g. concerts, plays, inter-district activities) for the upcoming month. In addition, we are canceling all out of state trips and oversee trips that were planned. Smaller gatherings will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
We will proceed with our scheduled parent-teacher conferences at this time. We ask parents/guardians who are sick or exhibiting symptoms to conduct their conference over the phone or reschedule.
Share Your Travel History
RSU5 families and staff should alert the school nurse if they’ve traveled to countries that have Centers for Disease Control (CDC) alert or warning level health notices, or have been in close contact with someone who has. You can find information about CDC travel alerts at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
Students Ill or Immunocompromised
Any child exhibiting signs of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) while at school will be kept in a safe area of the school away from other students or staff until a parent or guardian can take them home. Any student with a fever should stay home until they are fever-free without medication for 24 hours. Parents of students whose immune systems are compromised have discretion on whether to send their child to school. If you do not send your child to school due to concerns about contracting the virus, the absence will be excused.
In the event that schools need to be closed, we will develop plans to provide students with learning
materials to use at home. For students in grades 6-12 with one-to-one devices, this plan will
include the development of tech-enabled solutions.
This is a constantly changing landscape that will require us to all work together. I will continue to update you as things evolve. You can go to the link on our website for the most recent communications at https://www.rsu5.org/Content2/640
I will be meeting with superintendents from across Cumberland County tomorrow morning to make further decisions regarding other upcoming events and to work on the establishment of a common protocol for these decisions to be made across our region while allowing for local exceptions to be made. Please know that the safety and health of our students is always first and foremost in our minds.
CORONAVIRUS LETTER FROM SUPERINTENDENT FOLEY
March 1, 2020
Dear RSU5 Families & Staff,
March is here
, and our students and staff are still grappling with the flu. With the outbreak of Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) worldwide, this has added to the concerns about the safety of our students’ health. Thus far, there are currently no reported cases in Maine and the chance of an outbreak is low. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is responding by working with the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) to provide frequent guidance and updates to all districts throughout Maine. Additionally, we have a District Safety Committee that meets regularly to ensure the safety and health of all our students and staff.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you have any of these symptoms and have not been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, it is most likely you have a cold or flu. As a precaution, students or staff who recently traveled outside the United States and who have respiratory symptoms or fever should inform their health care provider about their travel history. I want to remind staff, students, and parents about steps we can all take to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the flu:
- Students and staff should stay home when they are sick. If students or staff members have a fever, they should stay home until they are fever-free without the use of medication for 24 hours.
- Everyone – students, staff, school volunteers and visitors – should wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. The CDC says this is the first line of defense. If you cannot wash your hands, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60-95% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
In the event of an outbreak in our community, we will follow CDC recommendations and we will be providing frequent communication to all stakeholders. Those recommendations could include school closings. School closing decisions are typically made by the Maine CDC, and depend on the number of people infected and the risk of the disease spreading.
Superintendent of Schools