Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Re-Opening Schools Fall 2020
1. Who will decide if schools are able to reopen in the Fall and who will decide if we do go back but then must return to remote learning due to an additional COVID-19 outbreak?
The Maine DOE, in partnership with the CDC and MEMA, will determine when it is advisable for schools to return to in-person instruction.
The Department of Education has been clear it will work in conjunction with school boards and administrators to decide when it is safe to re-open schools. MEA does not know now what school re-opening in the Fall will look like, but the Department of Education has been clear it will continue to work with all stakeholders to determine if and how schools can open in the Fall.
If a school districts decides to start school earlier or later than the originally agreed upon date, the Local Association should negotiate this change in the calendar, as it impacts working conditions.
2. What if we go back and teach in-person but some kids stay home and still need instruction? Will I have to prepare more lessons for those kids, and how will I have the time to do that?
If there are changes that impact wages, hours and working conditions, the impact of those changes must be negotiated. Local Associations must demand to bargain. Assignments and expectations must be reasonable. Explore ways to best utilize all staff to meet the needs of any blended remote and in-person instruction.
3. What if there is an outbreak after reopening?
The CDC has clear guidance on how to proceed following an outbreak in a school. Any school in any community might need to implement short-term closure procedures regardless of community spread if an infected person has been in a school building.
4. Will we be required to wear face masks? How about students?
According to CDC guidelines, teaching and reinforcing the use of cloth face coverings is crucial. Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school, however, the CDC recommends:
- Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.
- The Maine Department of Education is recommending students wear face masks on school buses as well, per CDC guidance
- Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently.
- Information should be provided to staff, students, and students’ families on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
- Note: Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:
- Children younger than 2 years old
- Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
- Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance
- Cloth face coverings must be provided by the employer, as this is a change in working conditions. These face coverings should cover the nose and mouth by all staff and students.
- For those unable to wear coverings, shields or other appropriate coverings should be provided by the employer as this is a change in working conditions and should be negotiated.
5. Who will provide PPE to staff and students?
The Maine DOE is working to coordinate procurement of cloth face coverings for school districts. Some school districts are also working collaboratively to identify and procure masks for their school districts.
Local Associations should work to ensure that school districts are providing face masks for staff and students.
6. What happens if school re-opens, but I do not feel safe returning?
MEA is holding another webinar next week to address issues regarding your rights and the realities of returning to school. Keep an eye on your email for an invitation to that webinar, as we will address important issues concerning health and safety of our members.
7. Would it be appropriate for the administration to ask the teachers or other staff to take temperatures of their students and to do additional cleaning of their rooms?
Per CDC guidance, health screenings and temperature checks should be conducted. MEA recommends every individual entering a school district building or school bus has a temperature check.
Temperature screenings needed at school (if they are not able to be conducted at home) should be conducted by a school nurse or trained individual at the entry area of the building. For more considerations related to general safety guidelines for those administering and receiving temperature screenings click here for adults and here for children.
8. We don’t have enough custodians to keep everything as clean as it needs to be-will I be required to sanitize my classroom or other areas of the building or bus?
Cleaning of Rooms
- Cleaning of rooms – Local Associations should be part of a local Collaborative Planning Team to determine how often cleaning must be done and by whom. Any impact on wages, hours or working conditions must be bargained.
Schedule for Cleaning
- Establish a schedule for all areas of the school building to be cleaned and disinfected – classrooms, offices, common areas, bathrooms, etc.
- High traffic areas/common areas should be cleaned more frequently.
- If students are switching classrooms, cleaning and disinfecting should be done using the EPA cleaning guidance and CDC cleaning and disinfecting steps.
- All door handles
- All desks, tables and countertops
- All light switches
- Computer keyboards, mice and touch screens
- Any other surface likely to be touched by instructors or students
- Staff conducting cleaning and/or disinfecting must be provided gloves and gowns, and PPE
9. What might special education services look like in the fall in each scenario: full return, hybrid model, remote learning?
The Maine Department of Education has provided support to districts and educators during the time of building closures to help support both students and staff.
Local Associations should work with their school administrators to develop a plan that puts the students first. Because so much is unknown about what may happen in the Fall, it will be crucial for local associations to be involved in the decision-making process to support students who receive special education services.
10. What might transportation look like?
Much is still unknown about transportation in the Fall. The DOE is waiting for transportation protocols with the School Transportation Aligned for the Return to School (STARTS) Task Force national recommendations that are estimated to release mid-July. However, the Maine DOE released guidance for summer school and stated the following regarding transportation:
- Safest mode of transportation is for students to be transported via private vehicle
- If school-based transportation is needed:
- Provide plexiglass divider and/or face shield for drivers
- Provide sanitizer and require students to sanitize hands prior to entering bus
- Require students to fill the seats at the back of the bus first and to fill seats going forward, one student per seat (siblings who live together at home should sit together)
- Students should exit the bus from front to back and should sanitize hands upon exit
- Students should wear face masks on the bus per CDC guidelines
- Transportation procedures, logistics, and protocols should be well-communicated prior to the start of the summer program and reiterated/rehearsed often