ELLSWORTH — Maine children may not return to class this school year and the June primary could be pushed to July, state officials announced this week.
The Maine Department of Education (DOE) on Wednesday recommended that schools remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“U.S. CDC guidance recommends an 8- to 20-week timeframe for avoiding large group/in-person instruction once there is evidence of community transmission of COVID-19,” DOE Commissioner Pender Makin wrote in a letter to educators. “Therefore, I am recommending, with the support of the Governor, that you begin to plan to replace classroom/group instruction with remote/distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
“It is difficult to make such a recommendation, recognizing the profound challenge of reinventing public education and the many culminating events and rites of passage that educators and students anticipate all year long. I also realize that this recommendation will be difficult for families to hear, given the challenges of child care and managing school expectations on top of the other significant impacts of this state and national emergency.”
She added that it was important for school leaders to have as much information as early as possible to prepare for extended periods of remote learning.
Hancock County schools have been closed since March 16.
On Tuesday, Governor Janet Mills recommended that the state push back its primary election scheduled for June 9 to July 14 in order to minimize large groups and protect poll workers and voters.
“Everybody, to a person, remains very concerned about in-person voting on June 9,” said Mills at a press conference on April 7. “And given the various deadlines between now and June 9, I believe it is not going to be possible to hold the primary elections on June 9.”
The new date floated, although it hasn’t been finalized yet, is July 14, said Mills. “So we’re looking at ways to encourage absentee ballot to the highest level possible, minimizing in-person voting. We’ll take these each step at a time,” she said.
Before it adjourned last month, the Legislature passed a bill giving Mills authority to facilitate voting in the primary.
Maine held its presidential primary March 3. The summer primary is for other federal, state and county offices. It will determine which party candidates will appear on the November ballot.
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is running to retain her seat. The Democratic candidates are Sara Gideon, Bre Kidman, Ross LaJeunesse and Elizabeth Sweet. In U.S. Congressional District 2, incumbent Jared Golden is on the Democratic ticket while Republicans will choose between Adrienne Bennett, Eric Brakey and Dale Crafts.
In State Senate District 7, which encompasses most of Hancock County, there is a contested Republican race between Brian Langley and John Linnehan. Incumbent Louie Luchini is the Democratic candidate.
Both parties have contested primary races in State Senate District 8, where incumbent Republican Kimberley Rosen is being challenged by Larry Lockman. Trudy Scee and Beverly Uhlenhake, both of Brewer, are running as Democrats.
In state House races, there are three contested primary elections in Hancock County. In District 134, Democrat Julie Eaton of Deer Isle is challenging incumbent Genevieve McDonald of Stonington, also a Democrat. In District 135, Sage Leafsong and Lynne Williams, both of Bar Harbor, are running as Democrats. Benjamin Meiklejohn is running as a Green Independent Party candidate and Timothy Oh is running as a Republican. In District 137, Republican Renee Trust of Franklin is running against Meldon Carmichael of Greenbush. Maxwell Coolidge of Franklin is running as a Democrat.
There are two Republican candidates for the office of Hancock County registrar of probate. They are Velma Jordan of Waltham and Juliette Wilbur of Ellsworth.
Kate Cough contributed to this report.