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Teachers prepare for possible return to the classroom come fall

Elementary school teachers are already preparing for changes in the classroom to help practice social distancing upon students' return

MAINE, USA — It may still be summer, but back-to-school is a major point of interest for students, teachers and families across the state. There is no set date for Maine public schools to return to in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many teachers are already preparing for changes they'll need to make for their classroom. 

"How do we encourage those 3rd and 4th graders to do the right thing. To try and wear the mask and be socially distant," said Ginger Reoch, a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Hollis Elementary School. 

Reoch says a lot will need to change inside of her classroom for it to be safe for students to return. She says adequate physical distancing is possible with students, however all shared classroom materials will now have to be provided for each student. 

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"We won't be able to say 'here's my bucket of markers, go use those or scissors and be safe," said Reoch. 

To ensure that when students do return they all have their own materials, Reoch set out to raise the funds to provide enough materials for each student to have their own. She raised nearly $400 for the project through the website Donors Choose. Now, more classroom teachers are trying to do the same, to keep kids safe and elimiate shared items. 

"There won't be that kind of sharing... Everybody will have to have their own set of pencils in their pencil case with glue and scissors, and that's what I have to plan for," said Hollis Elementary 1st grade teacher Stacey Steeves. 

On Thursday, Senator Susan Collins met with administrators from the Bonny Eagle school district, MSAD 6, which Hollis Elementary is part of. 

Collins said the discussion she had with MSAD 6 leaders on Thursday was "productive." Collins said, "Congress needs to provide additional funds in the next COVID-19 relief package to help school districts implement these changes to protect students, teachers, staff, custodians, food service and other employees.” 

There is no decision made yet on when schools in Maine will return for in-person learning.