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Valley Unified closes schools ‘indefinitely’

MADAWASKA, Maine — The Valley Unified Educational Service Center sent out letters to families March 19, to inform them that the school closure plans discussed on March 16 would be in place “indefinitely.” 

On March 16, the three school boards from MSADs 27 and 33, and the Madawaska School Department met to go over the action plan outlined for remote learning for four weeks, rather than the planned two. 

Valley Unified’s overall plan is to ensure that the students continue to get instruction throughout the time the schools are closed rather than end it with the discontinuance of formal classes. For this reason, Sirois said they designed the plan to cover four weeks, not just the recommended two.  

That plan has since been altered with the mandatory closure of all schools across Maine by a proclamation signed by Gov. Janet Mills. 

“This proclamation has a 30-day period, which extends beyond our current two-week school closure for all Valley Unified Schools,” the letter sent home to families said. “We are, therefore, notifying all students, parents, staff and community members that Valley Unified Schools will be closed indefinitely, until the governor has terminated her civil emergency proclamation, and it is safe to resume regular classroom instruction. During this period of time, our Remote Learning Plan remains in effect.”

The plan consists of four parts: the remote learning plan, the school lunch plan, the staff work plan, and school-based services and facility access. 

Part one  — remote learning — is a three-phase plan. Phase one, which begins this week, is meant to extend the learning that has already occurred in the classroom, and provide work for the students to complete at home that will reiterate what they learned already. During this phase, the teachers are preparing to send the correct learning materials to the students. 

“Please let your children know that schools may be closed but their learning has not been cancelled,” the letter stated. “We are working each day to make sure they can continue their education through a variety of remote learning activities.”

Phase two, which covers the weeks of March 23 through April 3, is the enrichment phase, when teachers will give activity assignments. Some will be based on technology and others will not.

The third phase will consist of remote instruction estimated to take place beyond April 6, when teachers will arrange to instruct the students remotely using an array of technology. 

School lunch comprises part two of the overall plan, which will make the nutrition program an extension of the summer meal plan. This will begin March 17 and will provide meals to youths under 18 Monday through Friday while school is out. 

Each daily meal will have that day’s lunch and the next morning’s breakfast provided.

Part three is the staff work plan. Sirois assured the collective boards that he was going to ensure stability for the staff. 

Part four of the plan involves school facility access and limiting the use of the public spaces while still maintaining important services to students. 

With the 30-day proclamation, which could be altered at any time due to the attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19, the schools will be closed until the time Mills says otherwise. 

“We understand that this is a difficult time for many families and we continue to offer the best support we can during this time,” the letter said. 

The school lunch delivery program will continue for the duration of the school closure period.

Visit our websites, thecounty.me, fiddleheadfocus.com and bangordailynews.com, for continually updated information about coronavirus in your community and in Maine.

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