Edition for Friday, July 17, 2020
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Janet Mills made the following announcements this afternoon.
To Protect Health of
Students & Staff, Mills Administration Provides Public Health Guidance
& Financial Support to School Systems Across Maine
Governor Janet Mills
announced today a series of steps her Administration is taking to assist
and support school systems across Maine as they consider whether and how
to return to in-classroom instruction this fall. Each of these actions aims to
provide essential support to promote a safe return for children, teachers,
and school staff.
To that end, the
Governor announced today that the Maine Department of Education, in close
partnership with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine
CDC), has updated its "Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction" to
include health and safety precautions that all schools must follow if they
decide to return to in-classroom instruction to ensure the safety and
well-being of students and staff. The Governor also announced that these
science-based protocols, which follow national best practices and include the
use of face coverings and physical distancing, will be financially supported
by up to $165 million in Federal CARES Act funding that she has authorized to
be distributed to school systems across Maine.
Further, Governor Mills
also announced that her Administration will provide school superintendents
and school boards with public health guidance in the form of a three-tiered
health advisory system to assist them in making decisions about whether and
how to bring students back to the classroom. This new tiered system,
developed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the
Maine CDC, will take into account public health metrics on a county by county
basis and translate them into three, regularly updated color-based
These developments come
after an announcement
by the Mills Administration earlier today that the Governor is providing $8.4
million in additional CARES Act funding to childcare providers to offset the
higher cost of caring for children due to COVID-19.
"Like many parents and teachers, I am concerned about the children who are being left behind and the inequities that have been exacerbated by this pandemic. For the sake of Maine children, their futures, and the livelihoods of Maine families, returning to classroom instruction when it is safe to do so must be our shared goal," said Governor Mills. "But that goal cannot be achieved at the expense of peoples' health and safety, regardless of what the Trump Administration says. I want students, parents, teachers, and school staff to feel safe and confident in returning to school. That is why my Administration will provide public health guidance and financial support to assist local officials as they determine what is best for their communities, their students, and their staff. The actions we are taking today are a step in that direction."
"School leaders have been tasked with developing multiple plans for instruction, implementing new protocols, and making extraordinarily difficult decisions in order to provide for both the education and safety of our students and ensure the health and well-being of the entire school community," said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. "The importance of our public education system has never been more evident, as we work to keep our people, our economy and our future healthy, and I am honored to work alongside my dedicated colleagues in education."
"The health of Maine's schools is vital to the health of our state as a whole," said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. "We are committed to providing public health guidance and information to promote the health and safety of students, teachers, and school staff as Maine people continue their commendable response to COVID-19."
"We will follow the best available science to support our colleagues at the Maine Department of Education and local school districts as they take steps to educate Maine students safely and effectively," said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. "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."
Framework for Return to Classroom Instruction:
The Maine Department of
Education has published a "Framework
for Returning to Classroom Instruction (PDF)" that is intended to provide
non-mandatory guidance to school systems as they each consider whether and
how to return to in-classroom instruction this fall. The framework, which is
subject to revision amid emerging evidence about the pandemic, is divided
into five sections that provide a variety of considerations for school
systems. Importantly, the Framework encourages school systems to be
prepared for three scenarios: 1) a return to in-classroom instruction for all
students when the risk of COVID-19 is low and schools have adequate capacity
to implement health and safety requirements; 2) a hybrid instruction plan
that involves a combination of in-classroom and remote instruction plans when
the risk of COVID-19 is elevated; and 3) a fully remote instruction plan when
the risk of COVID-19 is high. Earlier this year, the
Mills Administration secured internet access and devices to facilitate at
home learning for 100 percent of Maine school children for whom there was a
reported need and continues to address additional connectivity needs as they
are identified by school leaders.
Today, the Maine
Department of Education updated this Framework to include a series of health
and safety precautions that all schools must follow to protect the safety and
well-being of staff, students, and their families if they decide to return to
in-classroom instruction. These protocols were developed by public health
experts and include:
1. Symptom screenings before coming to
2. Physical distancing within school
3. Wearing face coverings
4. Practicing proper hand hygiene
5. Wearing personal protective equipment
when in close proximity to students
6. Remaining isolated at home if sick until
meeting criteria to return to school
is available to help School Administrative Units (SAUs) implement these health
and safety measures: https://www.maine.gov/doe/framework
Support Through the CARES Act:
Recognizing that school
systems face unprecedented, unbudgeted costs that are too great for
communities to bear alone, Governor Mills has authorized $165 million in
Federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) monies to be distributed to
SAUs across Maine. This funding will support school systems as they implement
new health and safety protocols to protect students, staff, and their
The funds will be
distributed based on an equitable, weighted formula that the Maine Department
of Education has developed in collaboration with School Superintendents from
across Maine. Next week, the Maine Department of Education will inform each
SAU of its maximum allocation according to the formula. SAUs will then
complete an application describing how the funds will be spent in order to remain within the constraints Congress has
placed on the use of CRF monies. Once the applications are approved, SAUs can
begin submitting receipts for reimbursement of approved expenditures.
The Maine Department of
Education has identified $328 million in need to help school systems across
Maine. The Mills Administration views the funding dedicated today as an
important initial investment to help schools prepare for in-classroom
instruction but recognizes that more funding is necessary for ongoing
operations. The Administration is hopeful that Congress will provide greater
aid to Maine school systems in the coming weeks and months.
Health Advisory System:
To support and inform
local SAU decisions about whether and how to
bring students back into the classroom, the Maine Department of Health and
Human Services and the Maine CDC have developed a three-tiered health
This new tiered system,
which will be based on a holistic assessment of quantitative and qualitative
information that includes but is not limited to recent data on case rates,
positivity rates, and syndromic data, will break down into three-color based
categorizations by county: red, yellow, and green.
Categorization as "red" suggests that the county has a high risk of COVID-19
spread and that in-person instruction should not be conducted.
Categorization as "yellow" suggests that that the county has an elevated risk
of COVID-19 spread and that hybrid instruction models should be adopted.
Categorization as "green" suggests that the county has a relatively low
COVID-19 risk and that in-person instruction can be adopted, although an SAU
may opt for hybrid instruction if its buildings or readiness make adhering to
baseline requirements a challenge.
are intended to be advisory in nature and pertain only to the unique
circumstances of schools. Given the large and varied nature of counties in
Maine, SAUs within a county or spread across multiple counties may adopt a reopening
policy that differs from this county-based categorization of COVID-19 risk.
Maine DHHS and Maine CDC will not review SAU-specific plans.
The health advisory
system will be posted on the Department of Education website beginning July
31st and updated on a biweekly basis, which allows for sufficient time to
capture trends. The Administration has briefed the Chairs and Leads of the
Legislature's Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and the
Education Committee on the use of the CRF monies.
Supports Child Care for Working Families with $8 Million Investment from
Coronavirus Relief Fund
In combination with other federal funds, Maine's
support for providers meets Bipartisan Policy Center recommendation for
Mills Administration announced today that it will invest more than $8 million
from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to further boost access
to child care and support Maine's working families in response to the
COVID-19 pandemic. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
will provide an additional $8.4 million to more than 1,700 Maine child care providers for the extra costs and challenges of
operating during the pandemic.
"Maine's working families are weathering the challenges posed by this pandemic while our child care providers have kept their children healthy and safe," said Governor Mills. "This investment will further support them and our economy as we approach the fall. But Congress must do more to help child care providers recover and ensure that families have access to quality, affordable care."
"Over 80 percent of Maine's child care providers are open, a testament to their commitment to health and safety precautions in partnership with the families they serve," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "This funding will further support relief, recovery, and accommodation of additional children, although funding from Congress for sustainability and stability is needed."
the funding announced today, center-based providers will each receive up to
$9,200 and family-based providers will each receive up to $950 to cover
the same time, the Department will award the remaining $2.8 million from
announced $11 million in CARES Act funding for Maine, focusing on child
care providers that are open and providing care by September 8, 2020. Child care centers will receive an additional $2,800 in
aid and family-based providers will receive an additional $550, with grants
issued in August.
together, the child care reimbursement announced
today from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and the CARES Act grants meet the
Bipartisan Policy Center's recommended amount needed for child care providers
to remain open or reopen in the face of the pandemic. In a letter
to Congress, the Bipartisan Policy Center calculated that providers would
need up to $12,000 (centers) and $1,500 (family-based) to re-open and make
needed adjustments for health and safety precautions.
"Child care is an essential service for Maine's working parents and a cornerstone of the economy," said Linda Smith, Director, Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "The Bipartisan Policy Center applauds these re-opening funds to child care providers which will help ensure parents have access to reliable, safe, and quality child care during these challenging times. The risk of permanent closure is too great. This support demonstrates Maine's commitment to help both family child care and center-based programs survive while supporting families returning to the workforce."
child care providers face new operating costs due to
the pandemic that will persist beyond reopening for increased staff, personal
protective equipment, facility modifications for safety, and cleaning.
Governor Mills' Economic Recovery Committee recommended $45 million for child care and after school programing in the fall. Maine
Attorney General Aaron Frey recently signed
on to a letter to Congress supporting up to $50 billion in child care
of today, over 80 percent of Maine's approximately 1,700 licensed child care providers are open, up from about 50 percent in
April. This reflects, in part, robust support from the DHHS Office of Child
and Family Services. The Office has awarded the bulk of the previously
announced $11 million in CARES Act funding, available through the Child Care
and Development Block Grant, providing a one-time stipend to all licensed
child care providers in April, subsidy support for essential workers through
June 30, 2020; and grants to resume operations by June 30, 2020.
the ongoing needs of the public while prioritizing children's safety, it has
permitted child care providers to remain open
throughout the State of Civil Emergency to serve Maine families, including
parents who are essential to Maine's response to the pandemic. It has
distributed updated guidance
(PDF) to promote the health and safety of children, families, child care
providers, and their communities. The Office has also worked with child care
partners to match
(PDF) working parents with providers who remain open.
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