Districts looking forward to new school year

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FRANKLIN COUNTY – Mandarin Chinese, wind turbines and wood pellet boilers. Some aspects of going back to school sure have changed.

And some haven’t. Teachers, students and parents are excited, school buses will be rolling down down the road and the buildings have been cleaned until they sparkle.

“We’re ready to go,” Superintendent Quenten Clark said.

High energy costs mark the major facility changes in MSAD 58. Mt. Abram High School will be installing a wind turbine in a couple of weeks, the first school in the state to boast such an improvement. While the district does not expect the small turbine to power the entire facility, it is expected to help offset electricity usage. More importantly, the turbine will provide a valuable educational resource. Clark has said that the physics and mathematics departments are interested in using the device’s data in their classes.

Of more practical purpose, Mt. Abram is also installing a 43-ton capacity structure to hold wood pellets for a boiler which the district hopes to have operational by November 1. The general intention is to have the devices eventually running out of each facility. 

“The big thing this year is energy,” Clark said, noting that MSAD 58 just purchased 40,000 gallons of heating oil at $3.30 a gallon.

MSAD 9 considers the same issue as its two major construction projects progress. MSAD 9’s construction projects for Mt. Blue High School and the W.G. Mallett School are also considering wood pellet boilers. As those projects occupy much of the administrations time, several major facility adjustments have occurred within the district. The Weld Elementary School will not be opening this year, with the few remaining students being bused to Wilton. Weld residents voted to not reopen the school at a meeting on August 12.

MSAD 9 Superintendent Michael Cormier said that the school board was expected to vote to return the building to the town of Weld at their next meeting. Interestingly, the official deed for the school has not been located, meaning that Weld may already own the building. Legal counsel will likely be consulted to determine what the next step should be, Cormier said.

Similarly, New Sharon will be holding a town meeting in the near future to decide whether or not they want to accept the former MSAD 9 central office building. The district administration has moved into the Mt. Blue Middle School building, in another cost-cutting measure. 

Both districts have gone through personnel shifts, as cuts in state education financing has forced some consolidations and position removals. Clark reports that MSAD 58 teachers appear to be settling into their new positions.

MSAD 9 will actually be offering Mandarin Chinese for the first time, at the high school level, as part of a three-year, state Department of Education grant. Zhu Kungwei will be the teacher for the first year, teaching a multi-section language course, as well as an East Asian study focusing on the culture of the region.

Other changes in MSAD 9 include Monique Poulin taking over for Principal Joseph Moore, who has accepted a position at Jay High School. 

Some bus routes have changed slightly, as the districts seek to run their transportation systems as effectively as possible in the face of high fuel prices. MSAD 58’s bus run to Foster Regional Applied Technology Center in Farmington will now only run every other day, in keeping with that facility’s new arrangement with the district. The bus trip of Weld elementary students will be longer, as drivers will now need to drive them to and from Wilton. Cormier said he believed that the average student in Weld was looking at a 40 to 45 minute trip to school, which is around the average for the district.

“Obviously weather affects this,” he said, “people on the other side of the lake are going to have a longer day though.

Districts are not setting aside additional snow days after last winter’s harsh weather, instead relying on the early school year which begins on August 27 for most students. Mt. Blue High School’s sophomores, juniors and seniors’ first day is Aug. 28, giving the freshmen a day to adjust to the new buildings. Mt. Abram High School’s 10-12 grade students start Wednesday, with freshmen taking the day to hike and spend a night at the new Huts and Trails lodge. On Friday grades 10-12 have the day off and freshmen will have the school to themselves.

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