BAR HARBOR — Despite concerns expressed by several members of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System board, the board voted unanimously Monday evening to approve Superintendent Marc Gousse’s recommendation to end the school year June 5, a few days ahead of schedule.
The school buildings will remain closed, with teaching and learning taking place remotely.
This year’s school calendar called for students to be in class through June 9, with the possibility of five additional snow makeup days.
Gousse said he consulted with the school principals, as well as the presidents of the teachers’ associations and the school committee chairs, before deciding to recommend that June 5 be the last day for students. Teachers will remain on the job until June 16, as their contract calls for.
School board member Todd Graham said he would have preferred to stick with the original schedule.
“Our students have been robbed of education, especially those first two weeks [after the buildings closed],” he said. “I’m disappointed that we’re not using those last few days for yet another touch with students who really need it or want it before we close.”
Board member Lilea Simis also expressed concern about ending the school year early.
“There’s so much I’m worried about,” she said. “It’s not that I think (a few more days) would necessarily be that much more beneficial educationally, but I’m also concerned about students’ mental, emotional (state). I want to be sure they feel confident that they are able to and will be moving on to the next level.”
Board member Marie Yarborough asked, “What are we gaining by ending June 5 instead of when we’re supposed to?”
Board Chair Heather Jones said it will give teachers an opportunity to reach out to parents and talk with them about their students and what the remote learning experience has been like for them…what has worked and what hasn’t.
Julie Meltzer, the school system’s director of curriculum, assessment and instruction, agreed that it will be important for teachers to use those extra days to connect with families.
“It will be very difficult to wrap up this particular year,” she said. “It’s almost like every single kid at every single school has just transferred in from another school.”
Board member Robin Sue Tapley said she would like the school year to end for students even sooner than June 5.
“I’ve had a few parents reach out to me who are totally done with this home schooling,” she said. “A lot of parents are frustrated because they’re trying to work from home and they’re sharing bandwidth or they’re trying to keep their kids on task. There are some kids who are good on their own and they’re eager to learn. But there are a lot of others who just can’t do it on their own, and this has been overwhelming to them.”
Gousse acknowledged that no end date for the school year would be ideal for everyone.
“There are some kids and families who are at the point with remote learning that they need some relief,” he said. “Others need more.”