Wiscasset School Department staff are working hard to bring back as many students in-person as possible, Superintendent Terry Wood reported at the Tuesday, Jan. 12 Zoom school committee meeting.
Wednesdays will still be virtual learning so the buildings can be thoroughly cleaned but more and more students will be attending four days a week if they choose to. Wood noted Wiscasset Elementary School is fully ready for higher numbers and second, fourth and fifth graders began to come back in greater numbers the week of Jan. 11, while kindergartners and first and third graders were set return four days a week starting the week of Jan. 18. Wood said 27 students at WES were still fully remote, but that number is changing every day.
Five students who were fully remote and several who were homeschooling are now returning. “It was almost like the first day of school yesterday,” said Wood, referring to so many students returning fully for the first time this school year. “Kids are not taking their masks off, things are going very well. All staff members are making sure we are staying vigilant with CDC guidelines,” she added.
Space is more of a challenge at Wiscasset Middle High School, Principal Chuck Lomonte reported. Construction is underway including knocking down a wall to allow the current boys locker room to become a classroom. A portable unit is also on the way that will provide two more classrooms. Thirty-one middle school students were still totally remote and 46 high school students, but 18 more students were set to return in-person Jan. 19 with more to follow. Lomonte said teachers have been working to identify those students who would benefit the most from returning four days a week, prioritizing seniors at the moment who need to finish graduation requirements.
Lomonte said, “I’ve just been really proud of our staff trying to engage kids remotely.” He said staff have participated in book discussions on remote learning. Lomonte also noted that as of the week of Jan. 11, there were 271 students enrolled versus 274 last year at this time.
In other administrative updates, nurse Marilyn Sprague reported there had been two positive COVID-19 student cases; both students had been out of school in the days before their positive tests and therefore there was no need for concern or contract tracing within the schools. She reported she has created a guidebook for when there is a positive case.
The committee authorized Wood to make changes without their approval to the school re-entry plan approved in August. Wood will still keep the committee informed.
The comment approved the June retirement of Ralph Keyes, an environmental and life sciences teacher at WMHS for over 30 years. Lomonte said Keyes’ retirement will be “a huge loss.”
The committee’s next meeting is Feb. 9 over Zoom.