WINTHROP, Maine — Leaders in the Winthrop Educators Association are calling for an extended closure of the school as COVID cases continue to impact the district.
"While remote learning is not ideal, at least we can guarantee that all students will have access to the same education," Theresa Fitzgerald, a librarian at Winthrop Grade School, said. She is also co-president of the Winthrop Educators Association.
Teachers and staff held a virtual press conference Wednesday to discuss the need for an extended closure. According to Fitzgerald, there have been more than 40 positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the school year at Winthrop Grade School.
"We want everyone to have equal access to the same education, and when we have students in person, and in quarantine, and remote, they're not getting the same education," Marcia Luszczki, co-president of the Winthrop Educators Association, said.
Wednesday's press conference came just one day after the Winthrop School Committee voted to make the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving 'no-school days' as opposed to remote school days.
Superintendent Jim Hodgkin presented five options to the school committee at an emergency meeting Tuesday in an effort to curb the spread of COVID in the district's schools.
Those options included:
1. Do nothing at this time. We have already changed Nov. 22 and 23 to remote days
2. Change Nov. 22 and 23 to “no school” days and add them to the end of the school year.
3. Make the week of Nov. 15-19 remote in addition to Nov. 22 and 23.
4. Make the week of Nov. 29- Dec. 3 remote as parents and children may have traveled out of state or mixed cohorts due to Thanksgiving.
5. Starting Jan. 5th, make all Wednesdays an early release (2 hours), except weeks that are not five days
The committee pushed back on school closures and a temporary move to remote learning. Superintendent Hodgkin wrote in a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine Wednesday, "I know our staff is at a breaking point, and the community members largely were opposed to an extended remote option. No one wins in either case. We will continue to seek ways to support everyone so that we can best serve the children of Winthrop."
During the Maine CDC briefing on Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah responded to a question on guidance for schools struggling with COVID. He says following steps like receiving vaccinations and taking part in pool testing can help keep students in the classroom.
"We know that those decisions to move, to say, to remote, don't come easy. They're difficult, and they're not easy to make. That being said, things like vaccination [and] pool testing are ways to keep at least the children in the classroom," Shah said.
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