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New framework, funding expected to help Maine schools with reopening plans

Portraits of graduating seniors at Telstar Regional High School are displayed May 22, 2020, near the school’s athletic field in Bethel, Maine.

(The Center Square) – Maine Gov. Janet Mills recently released a framework for schools to use as they decide whether and how to resume in-person instruction this fall.

As each School Administrative Unit (SAU) makes its decision, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC have created a color-coded three-tiered health advisory system, a news release from the governor’s office said.

• Red: County has a high risk of COVID-19 spread. In-person instruction should not be conducted.

• Yellow: County has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread. Hybrid instruction models should be adopted.

• Green: County has a relatively low COVID-19 risk. In-person instruction can be adopted.

“We will follow the best available science to support our colleagues at the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and local school districts as they take steps to educate Maine students safely and effectively,” Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Maine CDC director, said in the release. “Science has guided our planning and response to the pandemic, and it will continue to do so as Maine prepares for a new school year.”

It’s unclear how proximity to counties designated red or yellow may affect nearby counties with lower numbers of positive cases.

Keeping schools closed could disproportionately impact working families, Maine Wire reported.

“If children cannot return to school, parents may have to secure long-term child care. Because excessive state regulations have decreased the number of child care providers – and thus increased demand – these services put a large financial burden on Maine families.”

An additional $8.4 million in federal funding has been set aside to help child care providers, the administration’s release said.

To help implement safety measures, SAUs will receive a share of $165 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding through the state. Amounts are expected to be released as soon as this week.

The DOE earlier this month said $328 million would be needed to help schools function amid the pandemic. It is hoped Congress will authorize more relief funding, the news release said.

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