SAD 41 continues with remote learning

Submitted by Seth Barden on May 5, 2020 - 9:42am

Stuart Hedstrom, Piscataquis Observer • May 1, 2020

MILO — Like their peers across the state amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, SAD 41 students have been receiving classroom instruction remotely for the last month and a half and will continue with this method through the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. Teachers and administrators have been adjusting along the way with the changes being incorporated into what is now known as an emergency learning plan. The approval and name change was formally OKed by the school board during an April 29 meeting conducted via Zoom.

“We are looking at the plan closely over the next month or so,” Superintendent Michael Wright said, saying district officials will continue to learn from what SAD 41 is doing should remote learning still need to be in place once classes resume after summer vacation.

“Our future direction for the fall, we will be told rather than have a choice,” he said with the Maine Department of Education likely to inform school districts of the method of instruction to be used then. 

“I think we need to be as prepared as possible and hope something’s around the corner to change this,” Wright said.

“It has been an interesting month or so to say the least, I was back in the school on April 15 to help staff start packing up their student’s belongings and workbooks to send home to continue their leaming,” Brownville Elementary School Principal Carol Smith wrote in her report. “It felt surreal like you were walking into a scene that was frozen in time. The students’ belongings were still in their desks and decorations for St Patrick’s Day were still up on the walls. Hard to put into words the feelings that go through you as you see cach student’s name on their belongings and picture their faces. Feels like they were ripped from us, as I’m sure it does for all educators in the country.”

“One of the challenges we are facing along with everyone else ,not just in this district, are students who are hard to reach,” she said. Smith said for pupils without internet access, hot spots have been set up for them with devices provided by the MDOE and/or paper packets of schoolwork have gone to their homes, with similar measures in place for other SAD 41 schools.

Milo Elementary Principal Angie Kelley said she wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of the school staff for their work under the challenging circumstances — a stance shared by all the administrators. 

“This couldn’t be possible without how hard they are working and how much they care,” Penquis Valley Middle School Principal Tina Dumond said. 

Penquis Valley High School Principal Michael Rollins said he and others are working on developing plans for an alternative to the traditional graduation ceremony. He said he has been checking on what other schools are doing and is formulating a plan that will be announced if the...

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Fire destroys camp on Ebeeme Lake

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 30, 2020 - 8:23am
Linked from: WABI TV5

BROWNVILLE, Maine (WABI) - Authorities say the call to west pond road came in around 6:30 Wednesday night. A Bangor family reportedly owns the camp.

They weren't there at the time. The fire came dangerously close to other camps, but fire fighters contained the flames to one property.

A cause of the fire has not been released

Brownville Junction dugouts vandalized, those responsible have been found

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 27, 2020 - 8:51pm
Linked from: WABI TV5

BROWNVILLE , MAINE (WABI) - Brownville Junction's Davis Field dugouts were seriously damaged this weekend. Piscataquis County Sheriff's Department has found the juveniles responsible. The case is being referred to juvenile services. The dugouts had been redone in memory of Justin Gerrish who passed away a number of years ago played Little League baseball there. The fields host middle school games for Penquis Valley and rec games for the area.

Milo company building barriers for coronavirus protection

Submitted by Seth Barden on April 22, 2020 - 8:46pm

Ernie Clark, Bangor Daily News Staff • April 22, 2020

The lack of a vaccine to combat COVID-19 has left the battle against the pandemic to more direct human approaches — the most common of which is social distancing.

But one Piscataquis County company is helping to fight that battle in situations where the six-foot separation between people isn’t possible.

JSI Store Fixtures in Milo has been among the nation’s leaders in producing transparent hygiene barriers that perhaps are best recognized as those plexiglass shields that have popped up at local grocery stores to separate the customers from the cashier.

And when company president Mark Awalt does the math, he can’t help but believe those barriers have helped flatten the coronavirus curve around the United States since they were installed during the last month.

“If you put up a hygiene shield in a Hannaford store you’re protecting an employee and a consumer, and if somebody walks up to be served every three minutes, you’re providing 20 protections per hour for two people so that’s 40,” he said. “If the store is open for 12½ hours,  that’s 500 protections a day with just that one shield.”

JSI received its most recent large-scale order from The Dollar Tree chain of discount variety stores, and when those 2,200 barriers are delivered, the company will have shipped out more than 11,000 shields.

“If one shield can protect 500 people in a day and [with 11,000 total], you’re talking about more than 5 million [protections] a day and maybe upward of 30-plus million in a week,” Awalt said. “You have to believe hygiene shields are saving lives. You have to believe that.”

Before COVID-19 spread throughout the United States, JSI’s production centered on high-end, wood merchandising displays and wrapping store refrigeration displays in wood cases.

But when the pandemic arrived, company officials were quick to shift resources to hygiene barriers.

“When we heard some noise that this was happening, we actually went out and bought over a quarter-million dollars of plexiglass sheets so we would be prepared,” Awalt said.

“We’ve always used plexiglass because it will bend and it will come down over the fixtures. We’ve always been a provider of plexiglass shields, of sneeze guards and things like that, but not of hygiene barriers. That’s a brand new term that’s come up in the last month.”

Hannaford was the first major retailer to contact JSI about producing significant quantities of the hygiene barriers for their stores.

Since then JSI, which has 150 employees at its 85,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Milo  as well as other operations in Bangor, Payson, Utah, and Collingwood, Ontario, has supplied shields for such entities as the Hy-Vee grocery chain in the Midwest, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust Company, R.H. Foster and hometown retailers like Tradewinds Market and Reuben’s Country Store in Milo, Awalt said...

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