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As school districts across Maine develop and implement COVID safety plans, they will receive millions of dollars in financial aid from the state through the federal coronavirus relief package.
Up to $165 million will be distributed to school districts throughout the state, Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday. This is about half of what Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin said schools across Maine need to make schools safe for students, staff and faculty. Next week, the Maine Department of Education will inform each district about the maximum allocation it could receive, based upon a formula drafted by the state and school superintendents, Mills said.
The Maine Department of Education and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention also on Friday released more details on the health advisory system that will help school districts determine how to resume instruction in fall.
The Department of Education said in June that school districts should have three plans in place for the fall semester: a full return to in-person schooling, a combination of in-person and online learning, and a fully online semester.
To determine which plan to put into action, school district leaders will use the state’s health advisory system released Friday.
The tiered system, which will be based on COVID-19 case rates, positivity rates and hospitalization data, will break down every county into three-color based categories: red, yellow and green.
A red label will indicate that the county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction should not be conducted. The yellow label will indicate that the county has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread and that a hybrid instruction model with a partial return to in-person instruction should be adopted. A green label suggests that the county has a relatively low COVID-19 risk and that in-person instruction can be adopted.
The county-level health system will be posted on the Department of Education website starting at the end of July, and updated biweekly.
School districts will not be required to follow the reopening plan recommended by their color classification, but some districts, such as Bangor and Brewer, have said they will.
The Department of Education also updated its reopening framework to reflect some required COVID-19 safety protocols that school districts must put in place if they choose to reopen in person, including social distancing, symptom screening, the use of face coverings and requiring students who feel sick to stay at home.
Most school districts already have most if not all of these new requirements in their reopening plans, since they’re based on common public health protocols.
Watch: Janet Mills talks about reopening Maine schools in the fall