Stuart Hedstrom • August 6, 2020
MILO — Via a 7-1 school board vote in favor of the “Return to School Plan,” SAD 41 students will be heading back to the classroom four days a week under the current green designation and a reduced number according per grade level should the status change to yellow. Regardless of the district color status, full-time remote learning will be available for families requesting this method of instruction.
Return to School Plan information will be posted at https://sites.google.com/msad41.us/msad41.
The Return to School Plan was formally approved during an Aug. 5 board meeting held over Zoom. As part of the plan the first day of school will Thursday, Sept. 3, adjusted with some scheduled teacher workshop days moved up from later in the school year to provide additional time to plan for the reopening.
Assistant Superintendent/Curriculum Director Darcie Fournier provided a PowerPoint on the plan saying, “This is a draft and it needs to be a flexible working document as things change. We will update it as we need to.”
She explained the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) has a trio of stoplight colors for school districts, based on COVID-19 outbreaks and other factors and updated every two weeks, to provide guidance for districts. “Green allows us to be in-person as long as we can maintain all six required measures,” Fournier said.
These include symptom screenings conducted at the very start of the day, physical distancing to keep those in the buildings six feet apart, masks or face shields being worn under most circumstances, limiting the number of students on the bus to 24, staggered starts and finishes to the day across the three district school campuses and hand hygiene protocols for all.
Fournier said under the green designation, “The in-person model is 4:1 for all students.” SAD 41 would have in-person classes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday would consist of remote learning for all while the buildings undergo a deep cleaning, which would also be carried out over the weekend.
Should the SAD 41 designation be changed to yellow, there would be two options for students. One would be a switch to full online learning and the other is a 4:1 model for elementary students and 2:3 for middle and high school with half coming in Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half attending Thursdays and Fridays.
Under the elevated risk of the red designation, everyone would be online.
“We knew from the beginning there is no perfect plan and I think it will be a work in progress as long as we continue to do it,” Superintendent Michael Wright said.
Board member Russ Carey cast the vote against the Return to School Plan and during discussions before the motion he said, “I still don’t understand our rush to get back to school...Read More
Stuart Hedstrom • August 7, 2020
MILO — The process was different this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but SAD 41 residents approved a $9,912,964 budget for the 2020-21 academic year at the Aug. 6 referendum.
Instead of voting on the total spending plan approved at the annual district budget meeting, as has been done in years past, in 2020 residents of Brownville, LaGrane and Milo voted on three separate articles making up the 2021 expenses.
The first article asked if citizens would approve a 2020-21 budget totaling $9,870,987. This item passed in each town, 30-10 in Brownville, 11-1 in LaGrange and 48-10 in Milo for a combined count of 89-21.
Article No. 2 concerned the district’s $41,976 share of about $412,000 for the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative. This item passed in all three communities, 29-10 in Brownville, 10-2 in LaGrange and 46-10 in Milo for a total of 85-22.
The third article asked if $50,000 would be set aside for the capital reserve fund. Article No. 3 was also approved, 33-5 in Brownville, 11-0 in LaGrange and 49-7 in Milo for a combined count of 49-7.
The proposed 2020-21 SAD 41 budget total of $9,912,964 with adult ed included, is up by nearly $288,000 from the previous academic year.
Between local required and local additional monies, the combined share for the three district communities is $2,391,605. This total is up by just under $68,000 from 2019-20 (approximately 2.28 percent). Another near $42,000 for adult education brings the local total to $2,433,581.
Each SAD 41 community would see an increase in the respective proportional shares of the $2.4 million-plus. Brownville’s contribution would be $785,820, a $16,612 (2.16 percent) increase; LaGrange would see an $18,742 (4.32 percent) increase to $453,066; and for Milo its $1,194,694 contribution is up by $18,948 or 1.61 percent.
Contributed, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • August 3, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump Administration announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $462 million to modernize critical drinking water and wastewater infrastructure across rural America. In Maine, Bridgton Water District and Milo Water District have each been selected to receive $2.4 million in funding.
The Milo Water District has been selected to receive a total of $2.4 million (water and waste direct loan of $1,200,000 and water and waste grant of $1,200,000). This rural development investment will be used to upgrade the 2nd Street pump station, the Ida Moore pump station and infiltration & inflow reduction in the collection system. The project also includes some minor upgrades at the wastewater treatment facility. The primary purpose of the project is to address the applicable health or sanitary standard.
“Upgrading the infrastructure that delivers safe drinking water and modern wastewater management facilities will improve public health and drive economic development in our small towns and cities,” Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA continues to be a strong partner with rural communities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
USDA Rural Development Timothy P. Hobbs said, “This investment of $4.8 million in two Maine water systems is another example of the Trump Administration’s commitment to ensuring rural residents have quality and reliable infrastructure. Supporting thriving rural communities is paramount in the work we do for rural communities every day at USDA Rural Development.”
USDA is funding 161 projects in 44 states through the water and waste disposal loan and grant program. These investments will benefit 467,000 residents. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more...Read More
Stuart Hedstrom • July 9, 2020
MILO — The annual SAD 41 district budget meeting will be different in 2020 as residents of Brownville, LaGrange and Milo can gather remotely via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21 rather than at Walter “Eddie” Oakes Gymnasium at Penquis Valley High School to decide the spending plan to be moved to the budget validation referendum on Thursday, Aug. 6.
During a July 8 school board meeting conducted over Zoom, Superintendent Michael Wright was asked about the remote district budget meeting process.
“We will put out the information with a Zoom link and information will be available on the screen and we will go through all the budget documents like we do with you — it will be different for sure,” he said.
Budget information is posted on the homepage of aos43.com.
The proposed 2020-21 SAD 41 budget totals $9,912,964, an increase of nearly $288,000 from the previous academic year.
Between local required and local additional monies, the combined share for the three district communities is $2,391,605. This total is up by just under $68,000 from 2019-20. Another near $42,000 for adult education brings the local total to $2,433,581.
Each SAD 41 community would see an increase in the respective proportional shares of the $2.4 million. Brownville’s contribution would be $785,820, a $16,612 (2.16%) increase; LaGrange would see an $18,742 (4.32%) increase to $453,066; and for Milo its $1,194,694 contribution is up by $18,948 or 1.61%.
In other business, Wright said the summer lunch program has resumed after being halted following an employee testing positive for COVID-19 late last month.
He said the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention got involved immediately and another employee was identified as meeting the agency at-risk criteria. “That person was also tested and quarantined,” the superintendent said. “The test was negative and others voluntarily tested and they were all negative.”
“That is a reminder of what can happen any day in the fall,” Wright said. He said six committees — facilities, staff and student health, academic, transportation, food service and athletics — are currently meeting to bring forward recommendations to the board on how instruction will be conducted in the fall by “trying to find some reasonable plan.”
“We know there is no coming back with no risk,” Wright said. “So any plan we have for coming back has some risk, so what can we do to reduce risk?”
He said schools across the state are in the same uncertain position. One possibility could be to have half the student body attend in-person classes, with social distance protocols in place, on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half would come in on Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays the buildings would undergo a deep cleaning with certain students coming...Read More
Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News Staff • July 15, 2020
Maine voters on Tuesday, July 14 overwhelmingly backed $120 million in bonds for transportation and broadband systems that have been stressed by the coronavirus pandemic.
A $105 million bond to be largely spent on capital projects for roads and bridges passed with 78.7 percent of votes on Tuesday. A $15 million measure for broadband expansion in unserved and underserved areas was approved with 74.4 percent of votes. The Bangor Daily News and its partner, Decision Desk HQ, called both races at 9:36 p.m. with 12.7 percent of precincts reporting.
It is the sixth straight year that the state has passed a similar bond for a transportation system reliant on borrowing. Both policy areas have been the subject of long-term funding debates that have gone nowhere of late in Augusta.
A commission that aimed to solve an annual $232 million transportation shortfall deadlocked over a floated gas tax increase in February, while Democrats and Republicans have not agreed on a spending strategy to increase broadband access.
The spending could take on increased meaning amid the coronavirus. A decline in highway travel caused gas tax losses that drove an estimated $80 million loss on top of the normal shortfall. The surge in Mainers who have had to work and learn from home has raised attention to internet speeds that are fifth-slowest among states, according to Broadband Now.
That bond is a small step toward reaching the state broadband authority’s goal of connecting 95 percent of the state to high-speed internet within five years. Broadband is an expensive utility that requires buy-in from local partners over vast reaches of rural territory in Maine.
The transportation bond will draw down $275 million in matching federal and other funds, while the broadband will leverage $30 million in matching funds. The bond money will be used to plug the current transportation shortfall, while the broadband money will be administered as grants to expand access in mostly rural areas.