Remote SAD 41 district budget meeting set for July 21

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 in who may need the further limited capacity.

“If we want to come back in person it’s not going to be perfect so we are looking at how to do that and keep the risk at a minimum,” Wright said. “Ideally sometime soon DOE will come out with suggestive templates broken down into regions. It is clear DOE will not decide, they will give us recommendations and we will decide locally what to do.”

“It is just a huge challenge and we have now 24 different people who are working on committees,” the superintendent said, saying he has been meeting regularly with other area superintendents to discuss what may happen in 2020-21.

Board member Chris Hamlin asked about parents who may want to keep their students at home, wondering if teachers would be instructing these pupils remotely in addition to those coming into school.

“Those are good questions, we don’t have the answers to those yet,” Wright said. He said administrators have heard a number of views and will incorporate these into decisions.

“I expect it may be different for us than in Cumberland County,” the superintendent said. “I am sure we are going to have a whole gamut of issues to do with this.”

The board gave its approval of the hire of Bethany Heal as the district nurse. In accordance with district policy, Heal’s husband Jason stepped down as a director in order for her to be employed by SAD 41. Jason Heal had been one of three representatives from Brownville, with his term running through 2022.

“The Heals knew when Bethany applied for the job that Jason could not serve on the board,” Wright said. “We hate to lose him on the board but they have made a decision for Bethany to move forward applying for the job.”

“I want to say thank you and it was a privilege serving,” Heal said as his resignation was accepted.

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