Waterville students will have the option of doing their schoolwork completely online for one or both semesters of the 2020-21 school year.
That’s one decision the Waterville Reopen Committee, made up of staff and parents, has made in its deliberations about the next school year.
Superintendent Tabatha Mires said results from a survey of families conducted in July showed some did not feel safe sending their children to school during the COVID-19 pandemic and would prefer continuing with online instruction, which was the mode used exclusively from March 17 to the end of the 2019-20 school year.
However, most families and staff prefer face-to-face instruction. With that in mind, the committee is planning for a number of face-to-face options that could be implemented depending on the COVID-19 situation in the region.
“We want to be prepared for whatever the situation brings,” Mires said.
She said that even if face-to-face instruction is not possible when school starts Aug. 31, she is optimistic it will be possible at some point during the school year.
All staff, and students from kindergarten up, will wear face coverings at school. Mires said the district was still working out whether this year’s pre-kindergarten class will also be required to wear face coverings.
Desks will be set 6 feet apart and students will stay with cohort groups throughout the day. There won’t be intermingling between cohort groups during lunch, recess or other times of the day.
“Our goal is to ensure the safest, most educationally sound environment for our staff and our students and our entire community,” Mires said.
She said that in its various models the committee is prioritizing the youngest students and those with special learning needs for face-to-face instruction.
There will be a system of webcams in the classrooms, so that online students and those who are not accommodated in class on a particular day will be able to follow along from home.
Mires said having a continual online program will help to ensure seamless instruction in the event of closures during the school year.
The committee’s plan will be released to families next week and finalized the following week. It will be submitted to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education between Aug. 14 and 17.