I have been asked how I make the decisions to transition some schools to remote learning, while keeping other schools involved with in-person learning. These decisions are not quickly made; in fact each one involves a number of considerations. Please know that I do understand that there are concerns regarding the return to in-person learning as news of new confirmed cases emerge. Please also be assured that the safety of your children is paramount and the central factor in all deliberations and subsequent decisions.
I believe that, in making these decisions, it is imperative and crucial that I consult with and listen to the experts in the health field. My consistent and constant collaboration is with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Bangor Public Health, State of Maine Health, area health care professionals and organizations, and the Bangor School Department nurses. These people and organizations have credible research, medical understanding with discernment, and proven experience in dealing with critical health events. Thus, I am following their guidance and guidelines when it comes to the COVID-19 needs of our students and staff.
Presently, I am advised by these experts that being in school is actually safer than being exposed in the community, given the current conditions. Our students may be further at risk when staying at home for these lengthy time periods. Area organizations have shared that domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, and neglect are continuing to rise in our community. Parents have reported they are desperately trying to hold on to jobs and, concurrently, are unable to find appropriate daycare. Unfortunately, in the cases of BHS and WSCS, due to the number of staff having to quarantine, we do not have enough personnel for in-class instruction and supervision. This creates an untenable situation. Thus, a variety of factors must be weighed in choosing the best and safest course of action for staff and students in all our schools.
In addition, I always consider the foundational commitment of the Bangor School Department to consistently offer quality academics to our student learners. The incredible work that I see occurring from our devoted teachers and administrators is exemplary. They continue to exhibit consummate professional decision-making combined with a sincere love for the students under their tutelage.
In conclusion, I ask for your patience and understanding as we all realize that not every decision will please all parties. In developing situations, I assure you that each and every decision will be made with careful thought, always placing the safety concerns for our students and staff in the primary position. It is my sincere intent to keep all as safe as possible, while continuing to offer excellent academics and health supports to the children in our Bangor Schools.
Kathy Harris-Smedberg, Ph.D.
Interim Superintendent Bangor School Department