ELLSWORTH — Two grades returned to five-day, in-person learning this week at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School, and more will start April 26 after spring vacation, including all high school grades.
Classrooms will be redesigned during the break to allow for 3-foot spacing between students instead of the current 6 feet and the cafeteria will be expanded into outdoor and other spaces, including the gymnasium, if needed.
“We’re ready to go,” Ellsworth High School Principal Dan Clifford said at an April 12 board meeting.
The high school will have 410 full-time students return, with 59 students keeping to the hybrid model in place this school year and 62 remaining fully remote.
At EEMS, eighth-graders are completing their first full week in school, with three students staying remote, Principal Erica Gabbianelli said, with some kids excited and happy to be back and other kids nervous.
“They had a lot of trepidation, but it’s going well thus far,” Gabbianelli said.
Fourth-graders also returned full time this week, Elementary Principal April Clifford said, but a lack of staffing is keeping kindergartners and first-graders in the hybrid model.
The still-tentative schedule for EEMS students to return is:
• Grades 2 and 6: April 26.
• Grades 3 and 5: May 3.
• Grade 7: May 10.
Life Skills students will also return to school after vacation, Clifford said, but K-1 students’ return is on hold until a long-term sub and five ed techs are hired.
The hybrid model will not be offered at EEMS once a grade level transitions to full-time, in-person instruction because of the difficulties for EEMS teachers in teaching in-person, remote and hybrid models simultaneously. Families may still choose the fully remote option.
At Hancock County Technical Center, the dozen fully remote students will stay remote for now, Principal Amy Boles said, until classes absorb the EHS and Bucksport students returning to full-time in-person school on April 26.
It has been a full year since students attended school full-time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and administrators and board members stressed the need for social and emotional support for students. Still, Gabbianelli sees bright spots for students resulting from the difficulties of the past year.
“These are life skills they’re going to take with them,” she said. “They are resilient, and they are persevering, and they are working through them.”