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Maine's private and independent schools are preparing for a unique school year

Maine's catholic schools announced all schools will be back in the classroom, while independent schools like George Stevens Academy will follow a hybrid model.

MAINE, Maine — For school teachers and administrations, the summer is supposed to be relaxing.

After a long school year of teaching the future minds of Maine, the months of June, July, and August are normally well-deserved time off.

But the summer of 2020 has been anything but relaxing for school administrators as they plan for the upcoming year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this summer, Maine's catholic schools announced its plan to reopen fully for the 2020-21 academic year.

“Classrooms and facilities have been and continue to be modified to comply with the latest CDC guidelines,” Marianne Pelletier, superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools, said in a release.

“Additional cleaning supplies will be available and extra staff has been hired to help ensure that our health protocols and processes keep school environments as healthy and safe as possible for students and staff alike,” she added.

Students are also given the option to learn remotely if they do not feel comfortable going back to the classroom. 

All Saints School in Bangor is putting these safety measures through a "test run" this summer. For about a month, the school has held its annual summer program with about 20 kids attending every day.

Credit: NCM

Temperatures are checked before students enter the building and parents or guardians must fill out a safety checklist before leaving.

“We all wear our masks, we maintain social distancing, we wash our hands frequently," Principal Matthew Houghton said. “We have plenty of advantages that will allow us to open full time, five days a week.”

Those advantages include smaller class sizes allowing social distancing between desks, a bathroom in every classroom to minimize crowded restroom areas, and the school's 18 acres of land for students to exercise and get fresh air.

“We’re excited to get them back together and get them back to school," Houghton added. “I expect we’ll be back to full tilt when we start school on September first.”

In Blue Hill, George Stevens Academy will have students back in the classroom for two days a week.

Students will be split into two groups, with one group learning in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other group coming to school on Thursdays and Fridays. All students will be learning remotely on Wednesday. 

Head of School Timothy Seeley said last spring's online learning gave the administration help in preparing for this year.

Credit: NCM

“We took what we learned from the spring, and I think we’re in much better shape," Seeley said.

Some teachers at the school were using different online learning tools than others, making it hard for students to balance different websites and platforms. Seeley said to get everyone on the same page, the school will be using the online learning tool Canvas.

George Stevens Academy and other independent schools in the state have a unique challenge, educating local and international students.

Seeley said the boarding program will be reduced this year. Half of the international students spent the summer in the United States, making the commute back to Blue Hill manageable.

“The other half are overseas and some are in countries where the travel restriction are a little trickier, so we’ll have to see when they can get here. Some may get here after school starts," he added.

Those students will be tested for COVID-19 before they travel, tested upon arrival to campus, and quarantined for 14-days. 

Whether it's in-person, online, or both, this year will be something schools, parents, and students have never seen before.