Back to school in the COVID-19 era

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Aug 27, 2020

As fall nears, Midcoast schools have announced their back-to-school plans.

Whether parents have chosen to return their children to in-person classes or have them learn remotely until COVID-19 risks are lower, we appreciate the work our local educators are putting into our schools during this difficult time, both online and in the classroom.

With the low number of cases in the area, local healthcare professionals are cautiously optimistic that a return to school, while following safety protocols, can work for our local students. Dr. Mark Eggena, of Pen Bay Medical Center, said he believes children have done well at wearing masks and washing hands, and can be taught effectively to follow these guidelines in school.

Parents have to decide for themselves, however, what they are comfortable with as the near future remains uncertain. We have seen in news reports that large gatherings such as parties, political events and weddings will lead to outbreaks of the virus. The fall and winter could see surges in infections. Caution still makes a lot of sense.

There is a developing divide. Some families stand ready to teach children from home and need physical distancing. With that, there is a perhaps unavoidable risk that socialization, a vital part of a child’s psychological growth, will be negatively affected during this time. We ask that parents, teachers and staff continue to support these students as best as they can, as they are living first-hand accounts of pandemic aftermath.

Teachers and school staff need our support as well. Those who work in busy classrooms are taking risks during this pandemic. Teachers already sacrifice much of their own private lives for the well-being and preparation for their arriving students. We hope they will have a strong voice in the future planning of our local school systems and will be given opportunities to switch to the remote-learning model if there is a surge in the virus in or near this area.

In another important note, Dr. Eggena warned people to continue to see their doctors for routine check-ups and appointments. Doctor's offices have safety protocols to protect you from contracting COVID-19, and it is important to receive treatment for existing conditions along with preventative measures such as check-ups and medical testing. Putting off preventative care is beginning to take a toll on some in our communities.

Back to the drawing board on Downtown redesign

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it's beginning to look like that road is Main Street.

City leaders started with what seemed like a good idea, to close about half of Main Street downtown to vehicle traffic to allow for pandemic-friendly outdoor eating and shopping. We were supportive, not only of this idea, but an even more radical approach of closing Main Street to vehicles entirely to create a walkable shopping district. With rerouted traffic and perhaps the construction of a parking garage at some point, this could be an attraction for tourists, day-tripping Mainers and anyone sick of buying all of their necessaries on Amazon.

Fun idea.

The reality is that to keep a box truck from plowing through a group of possibly existing tourists browsing or eating lobster rolls, the whole length of Main Street had to be marked with hideous neon green traffic barriers and markers. The closing of the lane resulted in some businesses losing parking spaces and others having difficulty receiving deliveries. Based on what we're hearing from merchants, communication of when this was going to happen could have been better.

It reminded some of us of the time a blue line was painted along Main Street to delineate the harbor walking trail.

This pedestrian shopping district idea would probably work better if you could close the whole street and divert traffic, and it might have been an idea better implemented 20 years ago.

For now, we encourage the city to admit this is not working and go back to the drawing board.

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