MILO — SAD 41 K-12 students will return to classes on Wednesday, Sept. 1. All the details for how classrooms will look are still to be determined, in part due to guidelines from the Maine CDC and Department of Education being subject to change, but district officials are working on a return plan.
Under the plan, students would be in the building five days a week, vaccinations would be encouraged but not required and masks would be worn at certain times by pupils and staff. Under most circumstances when three feet of social distancing cannot be maintained indoors then protective face wear would be needed and masks would also be required on all school buses and vans.
“Basically this is a reflection of our team putting our heads together, based on DOE guidelines and knowing our communities,” Assistant Superintendent Darcie Fournier said during an Aug. 4 school board meeting at the Penquis Valley School. “It will likely change multiple times before opening day.”
She said Maine is no longer in a state of emergency so most health and safety procedures are not required but would be recommended instead.
Showing a screenshot of the return plan, Fournier explained there is a color code system in place for community transmissions. This is made up of blue for low, yellow for moderate, orange for substantial and red for high. “That will change on a weekly basis,” she said.
“The difference in color will be how we handle masking,” Fournier said. Under blue and yellow, masks will only be required when three feet of space cannot be maintained indoors. An exception is during brief transition periods such as moving from classroom to classroom.
Fournier said that should community transmissions increase to the orange threshold, then masks would be required at all times, similar to the 2020-21 school year. Under red, learning would be conducted 100 percent remotely.
“We will not have a remote learning option this year,” she said, as all students will be in buildings as long as case numbers permit.
“If we are in the red and have to go remote we will create a meal plan for our students,” the assistant superintendent said. She said when classes are in-person, the cafeteria will be open with 3-foot social distancing in place.
Board Chairperson Roberta Trefts said the directors would not vote on a return plan that evening, as they need time to review the document. Whether formal school board approval is required is still to be determined, but a special board meeting could be held prior to Sept. 1.
“This is obviously something that’s going to be changing,” board member Chris Hamlin said.
Fournier said the return plan would be posted at www.msad41,us, and the public can weigh in with feedback to help comply with various COVID-19 grant requirements.
In other business, the directors approved the computation and declaration of votes for the June 24 budget validation referendum.
Residents of the three SAD 41 communities approved a $10,217,483 budget for the 2021-22 academic year via a combined tally of 71 “yes” votes to 21 “no” votes during the referendum. The question passed in each town at respective counts of 20-13 in Brownville, 6-3 in LaGrange and 45-5 in Milo.
The $10,217,483 total budget is up by $304,519 from the previous fiscal year’s figure of $9,912,964. SAD 41 needs to raise $1,335,100 in order to receive $6,281,637 in state subsidy, an approximate $65,500 increase from the state.
Between the $1.3 million-plus, $1,056,505 in local additional monies (which was approved via a 12-0 written ballot count on June 15 at the district budget meeting) and SAD 41’s near $42,000 proportional share of the $411,180 Piscatquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative budget, the total local costs are $2,433,581. This amount is the exact same as the previous academic year.
The individual town assessments have each changed by 0.30 to 0.75 percent. For Brownville, a $791,463 assessment is $5,642 (0.72 percent) more.
LaGrange and Milo will both see a slight decrease in assessments. LaGrange would be responsible for $450,950 or a $2,116 (0.47 percent) reduction. In Milo a figure of $1,191,168 is $3,525 (0.30 percent) less.The fall coaching positions are set, with Jay Murano to lead the middle school boys soccer team. The other three high school/middle school soccer coaches were appointed during the June meeting.