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The workings of our democracy can be confusing to anyone, especially in today's political climate. Do young people get exposed to politics and government in school? We talk with educators to find out what Maine students learn about civics, and whether schools promote teaching about more controversial issues.

The Harold Alfond Foundation recently announced an unprecedented grant of more than $500 million to higher education and research institutions in Maine, with the goal of fostering growth and opportunities for Maine's future. We learn about the diverse ways in which the grant recipients will apply those funds, and what they see as the best approaches to promote Maine's economy.

Greg Powell, chairman of the board, Harold Alfond Foundation

Joseph Aoun, president, Northeastern University

We discuss how to handle the inevitable challenges that students and families will have to deal with as they return to school—whether it’s online or in-person. We’ll address the range of issues, from mental health and anxiety to the effects of mask-wearing and distancing—especially on younger kids and those with special needs.

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Last week, the state announced that, based on current health data, schools across Maine can consider reopening this fall. Many districts are taking that lead and planning to reopen, at least partially.

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher / AP Images

The state is advising that schools across Maine can consider reopening their classrooms this fall if they follow certain guidelines. The state unveiled its new advisory system for schools, and it has classified all 16 counties as "green," suggesting there is relatively low risk of COVID-19 spread. But those classifications don't mean that all schools will reopen, and many still face lots of challenges before they can bring kids back to class.

According to a June 2020 state report, Maine’s 38 colleges and universities educate more than 72,600 students and employ more than 20,000 regular and student employees, generating $2.2 billion in annual revenue. The pandemic is forcing schools to alter their normal schedules and modes of instruction, as well as housing and use of campus space. We'll talk with leaders, educators and students from a range of Maine colleges and universities about what school will look like, how institutions will balance public health with financial health, and how people are reacting to the planned change. And we'll discuss the impact of college decisions on the Maine communities that surround them.

Whether or not to re-open K-12 schools for in-person instruction in the fall has become a heated national debate. We’ll examine what factors are being considered in Maine, from public health concerns to the role schools play in providing instruction and support to families. We will hear from state leadership, educators, a health professional, students and parents to explore the complex dilemma of how to keep kids learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP Images

Maine colleges and universities have adopted guidelines that will consider class sizes, quarantines and social distancing in public areas such as dining halls as they consider how to reopen their campuses in the fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on students of all ages. We discuss the many ways in which high schools students have been affected, academically and emotionally. Remote learning and social distancing have altered their schooling and many have missed out on the landmark events that mark the high school experience. For juniors and seniors, the path to college or other post-secondary plans may be in limbo. We discuss how they are handling the changes during this critical period of their teenage years.

Now that Maine’s K-12 schools will continue with remote learning through the end of the school year, we talk with Maine’s Commissioner of Education, teachers, students and parents about how they have adapted to at-home learning so far.

This program has been edited for content accuracy.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is posing a particular challenge for many families, as parents face the task of educating their children at home while, in some cases, trying to work at the same time. Other parents may have lost their jobs and are trying to put food on the table.

On Tuesday, the Maine Department of Education told schools that it was recommending they prepare to end in-person classes for the rest of the school year, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Many school districts have pushed back the date on which they hope students can return to their classrooms. 

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

There are still no reported cases in Maine of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. But as cases have increased nationwide, state and local officials have started to prepare. Schools around the state are stepping up their hygiene and emergency practices in preparation, with some even using the situation as a learning experience.

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Portland School officials say a voter-approved $64 million bond is no longer enough to cover the costs of renovation for four of the district's elementary schools.