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Board to vote Tuesday, Sept. 15 on fall sports

RSU 13 leaders say opening of schools went smoothly

By Stephen Betts | Sep 11, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts RSU 13 Board members Gerald Weinand and Chelsea Avirett await the start of the Sept. 10 meeting, the first with in-person attendance since the COVID-19 outbreak started.

Rockland — The reopening of Rockland area schools went smoothly, Regional School Unit 13 administrators told the board at its first in-person meeting in the COVID-19 era.

"We had a very good opening because of the hard work of the administrators, teachers, staff," Superintendent John McDonald said at the Sept. 10 meeting.

McDonald said the custodial staff did a great job in having the buildings ready for when classes resumed Sept. 8.

Business Manager Peter Orne said the "what went wrong" list in buildings was short and fewer than in a regular year.

Steffany Tribou, director of curriculum, assessment and instruction, said she could not be more pleased with the work that the district's staff put in to have such a successful start to the school year.

She said the off-site learning system has not started as smoothly. There have been some glitches, she said. This is not unusual with technology, she added.

There are 191 students participating in the off-site learning option. That includes 58 Oceanside High School students in Rockland, 45 at Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston, 44 at South School in Rockland, 25 at Thomaston Grammar School, 11 at Ash Point Community School in Owls Head and eight at the Cushing Community School.

There is one teacher each assigned to Thomaston Grammar, Ash Point and Cushing as "learning liaisons" while there are two each at South, the middle and high schools. There are Zoom meetings with students once a week. Those teachers also teach classes in person during the day.

One issue still up in the air is the future of fall sports.The Maine Principals Association, Maine Department of Education and the Maine Superintendents Association issued guidelines late Sept. 10 to school districts across the state. Football and indoor volleyball will be moved to spring, under the guidelines.

The RSU 13 Board will hold a special meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15 to decide on how it will proceed with its sports for the fall.

Orne gave the board an update on the use of federal and state grants to deal with COVID-19. The district has ordered four new buses, spent $425,000 on contracted services which includes the license fees for the learning from home programs for the students learning remotely. $240,000 on technology, and $100,000 in training for staff.

Board member Doug Curtis asked if the district could use some of the grants to pay for people who will help out with intramural sports programs. McDonald said he would look into that.

Orne said the district's 2019-2020 budget was 99.9% spent which include $200,000 in overspending on transportation and facilities. That will be covered by the grants, leaving the district $200,000 underspent on its general fund budget. The athletic budget was underspent by $80,000.

Board member Chelsea Avirett asked if the district could pay for testing the sewage in the communities of its schools to see if novel coronavirus is present in the community. She pointed out that many people with the virus do not show symptoms, so this would be a way to detect the virus' presence before it would otherwise be detected.

The superintendent said that the board's finance committee could consider that recommendation at its next meeting.

The superintendent responded to online comments about him returning to a regular in office schedule with the start of school. He said not only himself but other administrators and staff have been working throughout the summer including weekends and evening to get the schools ready for opening.

"If there is anyone out there who thinks we were just lying in the sun all summer, soaking up the sun,and living the life of Riley, I'm sorry to say you're just wrong," McDonald said.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 11, 2020 08:17

Congratulations to John, all the cast & crew for a smooth opening.  It does take a lot to keep a machine like RSU 13 well oiled and running and for the benefit of an entire generation of students and young parents, Johns remarks referring to "the Life of Riley" were a reference to an early 1950's TV comedy show of the same name about a lovable man named Riley and all his troubles.  It's OK John happens to me too when I am trying to have a conversation with a 14 year old and they have no idea what i'm saying.



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