Dear Brewer School Department Families & Staff:
Based on new information from the Departments of Education and Health & Human Services, along with the Governor’s office, we now know that distancing guidelines will be removed for this coming school year.
This is big news for the Brewer School Department, since even three foot distancing in classes strained our ability to bring all students back to school full time, Pre-K through grade 12. Additionally, the six foot distancing during lunch made this goal even more difficult. This is why it makes such a difference to eliminate the distancing issue when we open school year in the fall.
Nothing definitive has been said about masking next year, so we’ll all have to stay tuned on that issue.
Calendar Our school school calendar for 2021-2022 is set so please refer to it when you have questions about when we open school, the dates of breaks and vacations, and other important information regarding the flow of the year. We partner with Penquis Child Care Services for our Pre-K program at Brewer Community School (BCS) and based on their calendar the Pre-K students will begin the year on September 7, one week after the start of school for our K-12 students.
Return to school options, Part I Schools have been told that a COVID-19 testing program called Pooled Testing would allow us to eliminate the need for any quarantining of close contacts. This article on Pooled Testing does a good job explaining how it works. In the article, we would be using the option referred to as Pod Pooling. Also, here is a webinar hosted by Maine CDC and the Maine DOE that explains the system.
At this point the Brewer School Department has not agreed to be involved with Pooled Testing, but I want everyone to have the information on this option. We’ll see, in the coming weeks, what benefits and sacrifices would be involved. The community will know, far ahead of time, where we stand on Pooled Testing.
How it works: students in a common homeroom would do a nasal swab on a regular basis (once a week, for instance) and place the swab in a sealed container, and all the samples from each room then go to a lab for testing. If there are no COVID positives in the room (or pool) then things are fine and the students will just wait the designed number of days before the next swab. If there is a positive then each individual gets tested as a follow up.
When a school has Pooled Testing there is no requirement to quarantine people who are close contacts if they are asymptomatic. Parents would need to give permission for a student to be part of Pooled Testing.
Return to school options, part II I suspect that having a high percentage of people vaccinated in a school building will help ease any future restrictions. The Brewer School Department makes no judgments when it comes to a family’s decision around vaccination. However, it could be that having more individuals vaccinated makes it easier for schools to stay open full time. We know that a fully vaccinated person who is asymptomatic does not have to quarantine if they’re a close contact.
Another issue is remote learning. The two items below address this:
We do not plan on having a whole district remote learning option for 2021-2022. If this year has taught us anything it is about how important it is to have people together for learning and socialization.
Brewer is applying for a RREV grant (Rethinking Remote Education Ventures), and we think we stand a good chance at getting it. If so, we would look to offer a small pilot program to establish a local remote option for a handful of students and a remote learning teacher solely dedicated to that program and those students. If we were to pilot a program it would be for grades 7 through 12. Please reach out with any questions, and you’ll hear from us again later in the summer. The good news is that while we will need to continue and monitor developments from the Maine DOE and CDC, we can now say that we will be fully reopening come late August, 2021. Thank you so much for all your support this year, and I wish your family a restful, peaceful summer.
Gregg Palmer, Superintendent (he/him/his)