Priority Notice: Maine DOE seeks public comment on waiving requirement that 21st CCLC programs operate only during non-school hours

In response to the unprecedented obstacles schools, teachers, students, and their families are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has offered an additional waiver to state education agencies, pursuant to section 4201(b)(1)(A) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  Under Title IV, Part B of the ESEA, section 4201(b)(1)(A) requiring that 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) programs operate only during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session.  If granted, this waiver would allow 21st CCLC program providers in Maine to temporarily operate with greater flexibilities to better meet the needs to students and families during the 2020-2021 school year.

This waiver would grant the Maine Department of Education (DOE) temporary authority to permit its 21st CCLC programs to provide supplemental services when school is in session, but students are not receiving in-person instruction.  For example, it would be permitted that a teacher provides additional 21st CCLC-funded academic supports for a group of students during a remote learning day when those students are not otherwise engaged in facilitated instruction with their classroom teacher.

The Maine DOE continues to work diligently to support Maine’s schools and educational communities as the 2020-2021 school year begins.  Given the hybrid instructional approaches many schools have adopted this year, students may benefit from dedicated staff and enhanced resources to help with remote lessons, independent work, and other enrichment opportunities during the portion of the week when remote lessons learning is occurring.  It is for reasons such as these that the Maine DOE has chosen to pursue this waiver.

As part of the statutory requirements for seeking this waiver, the Maine DOE must solicit and respond to public comment on its waiver request as well as provide evidence of the available comment period.  This 15-day public comment period shall begin on September 29, 2020 and conclude on October 14, 2020.

Comments may be submitted to: travis.w.doughty@maine.gov

PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine DOE Celebrates Extension of 9 USDA Waivers that Provide Maine Children with Better Access to Food

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) received confirmation on Monday, August 31st that 9 waivers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be extended, allowing continued flexibility in the way that school districts and other non-profit, community organizations can offer meals to children 18 years of age or younger.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Maine DOE, in partnership with Maine schools, has sought continued flexibility in federal school meal programs so that schools can continue to provide Maine children with easy access to food, even when they are not at school.

The 9 waivers all apply to the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which was established as a way to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals during the summer months, when school is not in session. Throughout the pandemic however, flexibility in this program, granted by the USDA, has allowed schools to provide meals to children while they are learning remotely.

Through the flexibility of the SFSP, school nutrition teams across the state have partnered with community organizations, prepared and packaged food, set up food delivery service with school transportation teams, and created community pick-up locations, among many other methods, to ensure families have safe options for receiving food. The 9 waivers will allow schools to continue providing meals with this same flexibility as the school year begins.  

The first round of waivers began in March of 2020 when COVID-19 started spreading throughout the United States, and schools switched to emergency remote learning. The waivers have been extended numerous times throughout the summer, with word of the most recent 9 happening early this week. 

The 9 waiver extensions, which apply to all 50 states and U.S. territories, became effective on Sept. 1, 2020 and will extent to Dec.31, 2020.  

  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-congregate Feeding in the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option – EXTENSION 4 (#54) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children – EXTENSION 4  (#55) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option – EXTENSION 7  (#53) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver of Meal Service Time Restrictions in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION  (#50) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Offer Versus Serve Flexibilities in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION  (#51) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Waive First Week Site Visits in the Summer Food Service Program – EXTENSION  (#49) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Area Eligibility for Closed Enrolled Sites in the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option – EXTENSION  (#48) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Allow Summer Food Service Program through December 2020 (#56) 
  1. Nationwide Waiver to Extend Area Eligibility Waivers – EXTENSION 2 (#52) 

Maine schools are excited about their ability to continue providing more meal flexibility to all children in their communities. The DOE Child Nutrition Team has been working with school nutrition teams and district leaders across the state to ensure they have the most updated guidance for school meal programs as the 2020/2021 school year begins. The team also continues to process SFSP applications on an ongoing basis.  View an interactive map of schools providing meals through SFSP. 

Districts interested in applying for the SFSP can do so by contacting the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team. 

School Food Service Webinar for Superintendents 9/2 at 1pm

Maine DOE Director of Child Nutrition Walter Beesley will be hosting a webinar for Maine Superintendents on the topic of School Food Service for the 2020/2021 school year. Please register ahead of time for this webinar. 

WHEN: Wednesday, September 2nd at 1:00 pm
REGISTER: Register here for this Webinar »

This session will be recorded and available on Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition YouTube Playlist.

For more information or help with registration, contact Paula Nadeau at Paula.Nadeau@maine.gov

Mother and Son Team Up for Virtual Farm to School Cook-off

When the pandemic closed school buildings abruptly in March, the annual Maine Farm to School Cook-off was put on hold. The cook-off is an annual competition among students and school nutrition staff, featuring Maine grown ingredients, organized by the Maine Child Nutrition office. As an alternative, a virtual Farm to School Cook-off was offered to participating teams to showcase their prepared meals in a virtual format.

Capitalizing on the unique opportunity of being in the same household during the pandemic, Gina and Caleb of Team “Sonday” from RSU 54, playfully named to showcase the mother and son duo, embraced the challenge and created breakfast and lunch videos to showcase the meals they had planned for the cook-off.

Two challenge ingredients were part of the competition, donated by Maine farms and producers, including rolled oats from Maine Grains in Skowhegan and ground beef from Common Hill Farm in Jackson.

The team did a great job showcasing the recipes they used which consisted of a strawberry shortcake smoothie for breakfast (what creative use of rolled oats!), and a Mexican inspired lunch, consisting of a taco mashup bowl and Mexican fruit salad. Check out the videos created by this stellar team.

Thank you, Gina and Caleb, for your dedication to this event and for being an annual participant in our Farm to School Cook-off since School Year 2017. Team Sonday will be awarded a breakfast and lunch plaque, as well as a certificate of appreciation for the longest running team to participate.

Annual Audit Reminder: Key Dates and Important Information for District Admins

We know that superintendents are extremely busy this summer, preparing for a new school year in a climate full of unknowns. As there is much to organize, we are providing an annual audit reminder, with key dates so that you can mark your calendars and take any initial steps needed.

Initial Report to the Commissioner Due November 1st:

As is required by Title 20-A MRSA 6051 §4, statements of assurance and Maine Education Financial System reconciliations are due to the Department by November 1, 2020. Please submit via email to DOE.audit@maine.gov .

  • Any adjustments identified by these reconciliations should be uploaded to the Maine Education Financial System in NEO by November 30, 2020.

Annual Audit Reports Due December 30th

Annual audit reports are due within six months after the end of the audit period (e.g., reports for the fiscal year ending June 30th are due on or before December 30th).

  • Per statute, the auditor is required to review the audit with the school board.
  • Per statute, it is the school board’s responsibility to submit the annual audit document unless it is stated in the engagement letter that the audit firm will submit the audit to the Department on behalf of the school board.
  • Municipal school units are required to submit either a combined annual audit or a school department audit and a municipal audit to the Department. The municipal annual report (a.k.a. town report) cannot be accepted in lieu of the complete municipal annual audit.
  • Per statute, Maine DOE must receive a Schedule of Expenditure of Federal Awards (SEFA), which includes federal award expenditures for all reporting entities, even if a Single Audit (formerly A-133 audit) is not required to be conducted. The SEFA provides information needed by Maine DOE to conduct sub-recipient monitoring as required by the US Department of Education and is due at the time of the annual audit.
    • Municipal school units, please note: where a combined audit is not conducted, Maine DOE should receive two audits: an audit with a SEFA for the school department, and an audit for the city/town including a SEFA.
  • If a management letter is prepared by the auditor, a copy must be submitted to Maine DOE with the annual audit, as this letter provides us with information needed to conduct sub-recipient monitoring, as required by US DOE.

Extensions and Subsidy Payments

If an extension or exception is needed for the deadline to submit either the municipal or school department audit, the superintendent must contact us to request the extension.

The forms are available on the Fiscal Review and Compliance webpage, under forms on the menu bar.

  • Extensions will expire no less than 30 days from the date the extension was submitted.
  • Extension requests will be considered until June 30th (six months after due date); extensions will not be valid after June 30th and all municipalities and school administrative units with overdue audits that have not submitted an extension request before May 31th may have a delay in subsidy release. Those who have not submitted an extension request will have subsidy withheld until addressed.

Exception for a Municipal School Audit

  • Municipalities that do not operate a school and have different fiscal year end than the school may request an exception for the school audit. The exception form and more information may be found on the  Fiscal Review and Compliance webpage.

Please submit all annual audit documents, reports, information requests, questions and other audit correspondence via email to DOE.Audit@Maine.gov or via the direct link provided on the Fiscal Review and Compliance webpage.