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Rockland area schools to feed students' minds and bodies during shutdown

By Stephen Betts | Mar 16, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Steffany Tribou, right, director of curriculum, assessment and instruction for Regional School Unit 13, outlines plans March 16 to provide education to students during the extended school shutdown. Also pictured are Board Vice Chair Carol Bachofner of Rockland and board member Ryan Minikis of South Thomaston.

Rockland — Leaders of the Rockland area school district detailed plans to provide education and meals to students during the prolonged shutdown in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Regional School Unit 13 Board met Monday evening, March 16, for two hours at the South School to discuss plans. Board Chairman Loren Andrews said that would probably be the last face-to-face board meeting for a long time with subsequent meetings to be held online and available for the public to view.

Superintendent John McDonald said teachers worked Monday to develop education plans for students. Emails were sent to all families and information will be on the web site and district's Facebook page detailing those plans.

Students or parents can stop by the schools on Wednesday to pick up plans and electronic devices for the students to do the work. The initial package will be to maintain the proficiency of students. The administration pointed out that additional learning is on pause as will be across the country.

Schools across the state and country have been ordered closed during the past several days as the number of COVID-19 cases increased.

Board members pointed out that Spectrum has offered to provide free wireless internet access to families for 60 days for those who do not currently have it.

McDonald said he has no estimate on when school will resume. He said the decision was made by the governor and he will re-open when he is given the direction from the state.

And all students and anyone in the five towns 18 years or younger are eligible to pick up free breakfasts and lunches. The district will be begin providing the meals Thursday, March 19. Pickup can be made at either Oceanside High School in Rockland, Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston, or the South School in Rockland.

Meals will not be eaten at those sites but parents or other family members can pick up the children's meals. On Friday, the packages will be enough for Friday as well as breakfasts and lunches for Saturday and Sunday and Monday breakfasts.

Families can contact the school district if they want meals for their children. In addition, for families who do not have transportation to get to any of the three schools can contact the district which will then deliver the meals.

McDonald stressed that this was the beginning of adapting to the situation and the district's staff will be working to make adjustments on education and meals during the shutdown. He said there were a lot of questions he could not yet answer such as whether there will be school during the summer to make up for the loss time.

Meal sites could be extended to the other communities within the district. District families in communities outside Rockland and Thomaston can pick up meals at the three initial sites.

He said teachers who are healthy and are able will come in to work to help respond to students inquiries. Anyone who is unable to because of their health of lack of childcare will be able to stay home.

Custodians will continue to work, cleaning buildings and buses and working on maintenance projects such as painting that had not earlier been done. Bus drivers will and other staff will be available to deliver food.

All employees will be paid, the superintendent said. Business Manager Peter Orne said 60 percent of employees live in the district towns and their pay is an important part of the economy.

Board Chairman Loren Andrews said subsequent meetings of the RSU 13 board will be conducted on an online system known as Zoom conferencing. The public will be able to log on and watch meetings.

Meetings will soon be scheduled to begin review of the proposed 2020-2021 RSU 13 budget. A budget meeting had been scheduled for Monday night but canceled because of the virus outbreak.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Mar 18, 2020 17:25

Just to emphasize one important point,  any child 18 or under is eligible for these meals.  So if you have preschool age children,  they are eligible for this program.

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