RSU 9 considers return of students

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FARMINGTON – Regional School Unit 9 board members met Tuesday night to hear and discuss a presentation in regards to bringing more students back to the district for in person learning.

Laura Columbia presented to the board, detailing three different options for bringing students back as well as survey results from teachers.

“The purpose of this is to review and research adjustments and improvements to our current model to allow for more students to be on site,” said Columbia.

Model A would work to maximize the effectiveness of the current model, by trying to bring in at-risk students (students who are struggling most with the hybrid model) following the approved guidelines.

Model B would be a full return of hybrid students Monday through Thursday with Friday being a work day for teachers.

Model C would be an 80 percent return with students being grouped together in cohorts. This model would also be Monday through Thursday.

63 percent of teachers voted for option A, 29.5 percent for model B and 7.4 percent for model C. On this particular survey there was no option to vote for no change.

Board member Scott Erb expressed concerns on changing the schedule this late into the year.

“I’m really skeptical about making a change at the end of the year. It would be a lot of work for a very short period of time and everything would be different again in the fall,” said Erb.

Board member Wayne Kinney along with several other board members want to hear what the parents think.

“I too want to hear from parents, but in general I should say I’m quite leery of ripping this stuff up in March, I think we should stick to our path,” said Kinney.

Board member Doug Dunlap voiced his opinion that health and safety should be the number one priority.

“Health and safety are the number one priority…whatever we decide to do…must meet health and safety protocols,” said Dunlap.

Board member Kirk Doyle responded to Dunlap’s call for prioritizing safety believing that safety isn’t the primary concern.

“I agree there is a certain degree of safeness we have to keep to but that isn’t what our primary goal is…our primary goal is to educate our kids,” he said.

No decision has been made, but the conversation will continue this Friday during a teacher workshop day. The remote model will still be active until the end of the year no matter what model is chosen, if any.

The board also heard a presentation on the ESSER 2 grant by COVID-19 grant coordinator Sue Pratt.

Sue Pratt presented some items that were being considered for the $2.4 million grant money, prioritizing items that would be only a one time cost.

“We tried to balance out what items are more appropriate for the ESSER 2 funds and what items would be most appropriate for the local budget,” said Pratt.

Some of the proposed options for funding include a social worker, additional nurses, laptop parts, as well as some roofed outdoor buildings that could be used for extra space during lunch times and other activities. Rented storage space is also being considered.

“We’ve been planning [the ESSER 2 and school budget] in tandem with each other,” said Interim Superintendent Monique Poulin.

Pratt and Poulin are working to make sure anything that goes into the grant with the intention of being sustained over time is being carefully looked as to decide whether or not it may be better funded by the local budget so that when the grant runs out taxpayers are not faced with a surprising increase in the budget.

There also may be an ESSER 3 grant in the works, but details about that have yet to be outlined.

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