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Returning to school during a pandemic; a look inside RSU 63

Some students of RSU 63 will head back into the classroom Wednesday
Some students of RSU 63 will head back into the classroom Wednesday.
Some students of RSU 63 will head back into the classroom Wednesday.(Emily Tadlock)
Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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EDDINGTON, Maine (WABI) - The first day of RSU’s hybrid learning model will begin with half of the students returning for in-classroom instruction.

Pod A students in RSU 63 will head back to school in-person Wednesday.

Pod B students come back Thursday.

Superintendent Susan Smith says about ten percent of families have chosen the all-remote learning option.

Smith gave TV 5 a peek inside Eddington Elementary and Holbrook Middle Schools and a look at the changes being made to assure a healthy school year for students and staff.

“Usually the school bus is the safest mode of transportation, but right now, with COVID-19, a private vehicle would be safer for kids to come to school in,” says Smith.

The wheels on the bus will still go round and round transporting students to school at RSU 63, but they won't be nearly as full.

Smith says, ”Students will be coming into one door per grade level so that they don’t bunch up so that the classes and the grade levels are always going in and out of the same doors.”

Students on the right side of the hallway travel one direction and students on the left the other.

As for classrooms, “They do look different than they did in the past. Most of our classrooms, kids were sitting at tables in places where they would work collaboratively. So, we’ve had to order more desks, and I’m still waiting for some of those desks to arrive. So, we really don’t have the desk space and the individual student space for going green and having everybody back all at once at this point,” says Smith.

Desks are spread apart, floors are marked off, all so students can learn together, safely.

Posted by RSU 63: Eddington, Holden, and Holbrook Schools on Monday, August 24, 2020

“Cafeterias look different and our gymnasiums look different and kids will have to eat in spaces that are different than what they are used to,” Smith says.

Hand sanitizing stations are set up around the schools.

From their bus ride in the morning, to the hallways and classrooms, mask wearing is imperative. Smith says, ”There will be some times in our day when kids will have formal mask breaks and be able to take their masks off.”

And isolation rooms are prepped and ready. ”Which we’re calling resting rooms here in our district because we don’t want students to be fearful if they do need to have a time in the resting room,” says Smith.

Staff have been preparing through refresher courses in mental health and mandated reporting.

“How we take care of our kids and look out for our kids as they come back to an environment that might be familiar to them but anxious about what it’s going to be like,” says Smith.

While the changes can seem overwhelming, staff say they are excited to welcome the students back into the classroom.

Smith says, “After the first day, I think some nerves will settle, but people are excited.”

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