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Rockland area school district gets $1.4 million to help restart schools

By Stephen Betts | Jul 24, 2020
Oceanside High School in Rockland.

Rockland — The Rockland area school district will receive $1.4 million to buy equipment and supplies needed to re-open schools in the COVID-19 world.

The money must be used by Dec. 31 and can go for purchases such as buses, desks, partitions, personal protective gear such as face masks or shields, cleaning supplies and/or technology needed to operate remotely.

Superintendent John McDonald and Business Manager Peter Orne announced the district's share of $165 million being given out statewide during the Regional School Unit 13 Board meeting Thursday evening, July 23.

The administrators asked and received nearly unanimous approval from the board to have the superintendent make purchases without following the customary policy of needing review by the finance committee.

The superintendent said it was important to begin making the purchases as soon as possible.

Board member Doug Curtis agreed. He said there will be runs on things such as hand sanitizer, cleaners and plexiglass partitions similar to the run on toilet paper at the start of the pandemic.

Curtis said it took him three weeks to get two shields for his office and said if the district will need 1,500 to serve all the students, it better move quick since all other school districts will be wanting the same materials.

Board member Carol Bachofner questioned why the district would be buying the equipment now since the board has not made a decision on whether to open school for in-person education.

"I have grave concerns about putting children and staff in a situation where there will be prolonged exposure," Bachofner said.

She said she was concerned that people were too comfortable because the COVID-19 cases numbers currently are low.

Board member Amy Williams Beers agreed, saying she went to a beach near Port Clyde and people were shoulder to shoulder and many of the vehicles were from out-of-state.

McDonald said he will submit his re-opening plans to the board July 31 and the board will vote on it Aug. 6. The state will provide the districts across the state July 31 their designations for whether they can re-open for in-person education, remote learning or a mix of the two.

Board member Mark Lewis said the district will need the equipment and supplies whether school opens in September, October or January.

"It's like we're playing three-dimensional chess while blindfolded," Lewis said.

The currently scheduled first day for School in RSU 13 is Sept. 8.

Board member Chelsea Avirett voted against waiving the purchase policy, saying she would rather amend the current policy. McDonald said changing a policy would require two votes of the board at multiple meetings.

In other action at the July 23 meeting, the board also voted unanimously to join a class action lawsuit against the drug manufacturers who are blamed for contributing to the opioid epidemic that has harmed the country.

The vote came after the board spoke with its attorney.

Board Chair Loren Andrews said he does not expect the district will get much money, but that it will send a message to drug manufacturers that they cannot push their drugs.

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Comments (7)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jul 27, 2020 10:59

Children in grades 6-12 would be missing out on much by home schooling on their own. Maybe some are that disciplined but my guess would be many would learn nothing.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jul 27, 2020 10:12

I think that the older kids, Grades 6-12 should be home schooled.  They pretty much can do this by themselves, while Grades K-5 go to school.  What with the extra rooms, more space can be used to seperate the smaller children whom most, I suspect, will not wear or keep a mask on.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jul 27, 2020 10:04

A teacher spend $100 using pvc pipe and shower curtains to seperate all her children's desks!!!  Now, why can't that be done for RSU 13.   I would help putting dividers together!  Cheap but works!!!!

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jul 27, 2020 09:48

This should have been planned months ago!  It is almost the end of July and just getting the money and figuring out how to spend it without approval just raises red flags to me. A day late and but a dollar more.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jul 27, 2020 09:06

This weekend I noticed a window sticker on a new Chevrolet SUV at $98,000 so I guess a million and a half for a few pieces of plastic screening, some floor stickers and hand sanitizer is not so bad.  I am continually amazed at the ease people have for spending money on things they don't need .Eventually you have to pay the bill and that's the hard part.

Posted by: Dedde Radley | Jul 25, 2020 21:19

I say you might as well buy all the things that you need now for the schools  that way whatever you need will  already be in place when they do  decide to open schools

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jul 24, 2020 08:48

$1.4 million dollars is coming from who ?  The State or Federal Government.  If it's the State where has this money been along when we have repeatable asked for assistance ?  I suspect it is Federal money given to the States for school reopening and again I would ask if the Feds have all this money to hand out for one time purchases that will be tossed or stored until the end of time in just a few months, why were these funds NOT available until now ?  The Feds and the State plead poverty until something comes up they want to buy then money is no object.  Doug should I invest in this company that makes the plastic shields ?  Right now a few companies are making a lot of money on this virus while the sheep are led to pasture.  Let's wake up folks and smell the coffee.  We are the sheep especially when it comes to this opioid case.  The only message we are sending is to a group of large legal firms that are about to make a lot of money.

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