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RSU 40 to delay start of school

By Christine Simmonds | Sep 04, 2020
Photo by: Christine Simmonds RSU 40 holds the Sept. 3 school board meeting over Google Meet.

Union — RSU 40 has decided to delay the start of school to Sept. 14. While teachers’ pay will not be affected by this decision, for support staff like educational technicians it means an additional week without pay.

The decision came during the school board’s Sept. 3 meeting, held via Google Meet.

Superintendent Steve Nolan said the change in date was due to the lack of equipment needed to meet the guidelines necessary to open the schools safely.

“In our requirements, under the physical distancing and facilities, there is a piece in there that speaks to adequate ventilation,” said Nolan. The district plans to replace and install ventilation systems in all the schools. While waiting for that maintenance to happen, Nolan said the schools would be using fans as a short-term solution.

Nolan said those fans had not come in yet, making the schools unable to open safely. “I’m concerned about providing adequate ventilation,” said Nolan.

Nolan said there were other considerations that led to the decision as well, though they were not the main reason. Camden and Mid Coast School of Technology have also delayed their start, which affects the RSU 40 students who are in the MCST program.

In addition, some of the schools do not have the staffing needed to begin. “We have some vacancies we are looking to fill,” said Nolan. There is no pre-kindergarten teacher at Warren Community School, and several schools do not have a remote learning coordinator.

Ed technician Norma Hunt asked if this schedule change meant she and the other ed techs would have an additional week without pay. Nolan said that was correct.

Hunt asked Nolan how this was fair to ed techs and other support staff.

Nolan said he understood this decision would create hardship for the support staff and the parents who had to arrange childcare, but the school could not meet the requirements to keep the students safe, so they could not open.

“All I can say is I’m sorry that this has happened,” he added.

“I understand that. I’m all for safety,” said Hunt. “But saying you’re sorry isn’t helping me pay my bills.”

Ed Tech Sarah Davis pointed out that ed techs were just as important as teachers, and could be doing work and planning while the teachers were in the school the days before school starts.

Nolan said there was not funding to support that in his response. “It’s purely a funding issue,” said Nolan, and was not about one group being more important than another.

Nolan added that while the budget for ed tech pay was approved, if the support staff began early, then their paid days would run out before the student days did. This would leave students to attend school with no ed techs at the end of the year. “We need our support staff to help our students,” Nolan said.

Rebekah Smith asked why the school was not simply beginning with remote learning instead.

Nolan said in-person learning was more beneficial to students, and the district wanted to move toward in-person learning instead. He also said remote learning provided its own challenges.

Business manager Karen Pike said the district did not have enough technology yet to provide all students in the district with a device for remote learning as well.

Director of Technology Linda Trenholm said providing elementary students with individual devices was a “huge transition,” as it has never happened in the district before. The district currently has 206 Samsung Tablet, which are also new to the district.

Trenholm said they had to add these devices to a mobile device management system, and the cases for these devices had also not arrived. “It’s a matter of availability of supply and time,” Trenholm added.

Board member Sara Andrews asked if a week was going to be enough time to fix all the challenges facing the district so they could open schools.

Nolan said he was hopeful that the district would have what they needed, or come up with alternative plans by then. “We need to be prepared for all combinations of hybrid learning,” said Nolan. “It changes daily. Yesterday I thought we were on track to open. Today I don’t think we are.”

Andrews expressed concern for the hardship this would place on parents who had childcare in place and were planning on their children beginning school next week.

“I understand that,” said Nolan. “All I can do is apologize to our parents that have childcare challenges.” He added that schools could not open without meeting the requirements to keep staff and students safe.

Individuals who are interested in applying for open positions in RSU 40 can find information on the Job Postings page of the RSU 40 website.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Melissa A Mason | Sep 08, 2020 08:38

Fans will blow the germs around fyi. They've been removed and/or put out of service at our workplace.

Posted by: Michele Robinson | Sep 05, 2020 07:42

You were going to pay the support staff for next week anyway if you were open. Why aren’t you paying them for next week? You got a grant from Mills!! That money is to bring the school up to the requirements! That money was mentioned in the school board meeting when it was decided to go hybrid! What is taking so long to do the updates?

Posted by: Michele Robinson | Sep 05, 2020 07:18

Y’all have had since March to work on plans for the possible opening of schools. The requirements for ventilation “or” outside air exchange has been in place since July. Why did it take so long to decide that the ventilation needed to be updated. I’d like to have the superintendent and school board be the ones to tell my grandson with autism that he will not be going to school Tuesday, as he has been told he would be! I want you all to see how heartbroken he is going to be that school isn’t going to happen this week! He isn’t going to understand why he can’t go! He’s likely going to cry, be angry, heartbroken and potentially start having behaviors due to changes in his schedule! Why has the special needs community of students been left out of the thought process when making plans. Get off your duffs and do your job!

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