PORTLAND, Maine—Teachers and students in Maine’s largest district have returned to classes this week. Brooke Teller, a science, technology, engineering and math coach here, would normally be spending this time administering new science curricula and coordinating professional development meetings. Instead, her schedule is mostly filled with the delivery of hundreds of tree stumps and sturdy plastic buckets for outdoor classroom space.
Like many other districts in Maine, Portland Public Schools has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis by pivoting to a hybrid model: Children in kindergarten through ninth grade will be attending smaller classes twice a week (older high school students are still learning remotely). To allow for social distancing, the district has also created outdoor classrooms at each of its 16 schools. Working with local architects, the district identified suitable outdoor areas and installed tents or other shade structures to accommodate changing weather. Each student will be given