WEBINAR: New Technology Funding Available Through Federal Emergency Connectivity Fund

Colleagues from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will share information regarding the Emergency Connectivity Fund in an upcoming webinar on July 22 at 2:30pm.  The event will go over information about how your district, school, or library can apply for technology reimbursement, answer common questions they are receiving from district leaders, and will have experts on hand to answer questions from participants. Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance when registering for the webinar.

Webinar Info:

July 22, 2021, 2:30pm EDT
Register here

The pandemic has brought equity-related issues such as home connectivity to the forefront, and the need for remote learning forced district leaders to invest more funds for technology than ever before. Fortunately, additional help is on the way.

Are you applying to get your fair share of the federal funds being provided to offset the costs of remote learning? Purchases between July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022 for student or teacher home use are eligible for this reimbursement, including:

  • Up to $400 per laptop or tablet
  • Up to $250 per Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Monthly service is not capped but is expected to be in the range of $10-$25 per month

Learn more about the Emergency Connectivity Fund and how your district, school, or library can apply. The application deadline is August 13, 2021.

Webinar Guests

  • Allison BakerPolicy Advisor, Wireline Competition Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Travis LitmanActing Chief of Staff, Federal Communications Commission
  • Thomas C. MurrayDirector of Innovation, Future Ready Schools (moderator)
  • Ramesh NagarajanActing Wireline Advisor, Office of Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communications Commission

Register here. For questions about the webinar, contact Lia Dossin.

MEDIA RELEASE: Call to Action for Maine Parents: Complete the Meal Benefit Application at School This Year – Even if School Meals are Free

Maine needs all parents and caregivers to take action this school year––by taking the time to complete the confidential Meal Benefit Application through your local school, even if school meals are already free for all students. Families, schools, communities, and our state can greatly benefit from the data that is gathered from the application, and this application is important for a number of reasons.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, when school meals became complementary, there has been a significant drop in Meal Benefit Application returns––meaning less families are filling out the application.

The family income data provided by the application informs key funding for school resources. This includes school meal reimbursements, funding for Title I programs, funding and resources for after school programs, funding provided to schools from the Maine State Legislature for essential programs and services at school, funding for special education, teacher loan forgiveness, and much, much more!

Federal and state government use the aggregate data from the application to distribute education funding to schools across the county and state of Maine. In other words, if there is no data to inform the needs of the community, it could result in less education funding for your local district and for Maine.

By completing the Meal Benefit Application, you are directly investing in your child’s education and the children and families in your community.

Specific programs that are funded by the data collected from Meal Benefit Application:

How can I complete the Meal Benefit Application?  The application is available through your local school administrative unit (SAU) school nutrition program and it is completely confidential. Most SAUs have the application available to be completed online. Follow this link to access your SAU’s online application (if your school district is not listed, please contact them directly). A printed version of the application is also required to be available––it will often be part of beginning of year paperwork that comes home with your child.

This past school year has certainly had its challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are thrilled that, despite these challenges, all Maine children have had the opportunity to access free healthy school meals on a daily basis. We would like to extend our gratitude to Maine parents and caregivers who have participated in their SAUs’ meal programs. We know that with the continued support of Maine’s incredible families, we can ensure the best for our children.

School Renovation Funding Available

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is accepting applications to receive funding for school renovation projects through the School Revolving Renovation Fund (SRRF). The application deadline is October 29, 2021.

The Maine DOE will be able to approve approximately $45 million in SRRF loans. A portion of each loan will be considered a grant and will be forgiven. The remaining portion will be paid back over either five or ten years with no interest. The maximum loan amount is limited to $1 million per school building per priority in any five-year period.

Applications for “Priority One” and “Priority Two” projects will be accepted. Eligible Priority One projects will receive funding preference over Priority Two projects.

  • Priority One projects include indoor air quality improvement, structural roof repair, hazardous material abatement or removal, ADA compliance upgrades, and other health, safety and compliance renovations.
  • Priority Two SRRF projects include school building structures, windows and doors, and water and septic systems.

The SRRF 2022 application and additional information are available on the Maine DOE’s SRRF website. For more information or technical assistance, contact Ann Pinnette at (207) 624-6885 or email ann.pinnette@maine.gov.

PRIORITY NOTICE: Seeking Public Comments for a Tydings Amendment Waiver of FY20 ESEA Funds and FY21 Carryover of Excess Title I, Part A Funds

Pursuant to the authority granted under section 8401(b) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Maine Department of Education (DOE) intends to submit an application for waivers to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). As required, the Maine DOE is seeking 15 days of public comment from June 23, 2021 – July 7, 2021, on the request to waive the period of availability for Elementary & Secondary Education Act funds and Title I, Part A carryover limitations.

Requirements from which Maine will be seeking a waiver include:

A Tydings amendment waiver from Section 421(b) of the General Provisions Act to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). The Tydings amendment waiver seeks an extension to the availability of Federal Fiscal Year 2019/State Fiscal Year 2020 Elementary and Secondary Education funds. Programs affected by this waiver:

  • Title I, Part A of the ESEA (Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs), including the portions of the SEA’s Title I, Part A award used to carry out section 1003 school improvement, section 1003A direct student services, if applicable, and Title I, Part D, Subpart 2
  • Title I, Part B of the ESEA (State Assessment Formula Grants)
  • Title I, Part C of the ESEA (Education of Migratory Children)
  • Title I, Part D, Subpart 1 of the ESEA (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At Risk)
  • Title II, Part A of the ESEA (Supporting Effective Instruction)
  • Title III, Part A of the ESEA (English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement)
  • Title IV, Part A of the ESEA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants)
  • Title IV, Part B of the ESEA (21st Century Community Learning Centers)
  • Title V, Part B, Subpart 2 of the ESEA (Rural and Low-Income School Program)
  • McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program

A carryover limitation waiver from Section 1127(a) of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended for Federal Fiscal Year 2020/State Fiscal Year 2021 Title I, Part A funds. The carryover limitation waiver seeks to waive the requirement that limits the Maine DOE’s ability to grant to its local educational agencies (LEAs) a waiver of the 15 percent Title I, Part A carryover limitation of more than once every three years.

The Maine DOE must solicit and respond to public comment on its waiver request as well as provide evidence of the available comment period. As the Maine DOE moves forward to provide as much flexibility as possible and continued support for expending ESEA federal funds, comments can be submitted to: Jessica Caron at Jessica.s.caron@maine.gov

PRIORITY NOTICE: 2021-2022 NEO Maine Schools for Private Schools and Updated School Approval Process

Updated: 24 May 2021

In accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 117, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) requires private schools seeking approval status to be approved annually. What follows are updates and reminders of the annual and ongoing reporting requirements to attain and maintain approval as an approved private school for attendance and tuition purposes by the Maine Department of Education.

Updates
Due to modifications in Department policy and protocol, the DOE is outlining some important changes to deadlines and processes for private school approval for the 2021-2022 school year. Please review the revised deadlines and processes below carefully. Missed deadlines will impact private school approval and any associated tuition payments. 

  • The 2021-2022 NEO Maine Schools Update, which is the online form used to verify school organizational information, is the first step of the approval process, will open for completion on May 15 for schools that were approved prior to June 30, 2021. Private schools seeking 2021-2022 approval that were approved prior to June 30, 2021 must access and submit the Maine Schools Update form by July 1, 2021. Please reach out early to our Help Desk (624-6896) in order to resolve any questions or issues.
  • Schools that were not approved private schools at the end of the 2020-2021 school year should contact the Department before July 1, 2021 to request access to NEO Maine Schools and NEO Staff modules. A new school will set up and have access to the NEO Maine Schools Update form as early as July 1, 2021 and must submit both this form and the annual report with checklist documentation no later than September 1, 2021. Please contact Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov to start this process.
  • All private schools seeking continued or new approval status must provide current, updated 2021-2022 staff information in the NEO staff module by September 1, 2021. Certification and criminal history record checks must be current for all staff, teachers, and administrators by this date. The Department will commence the final step of certification checking at this time, and will not approve schools with personnel whose NEO public portal record reflects current noncompliance. The Department urges private schools to review instructions well in advance, at https://www.maine.gov/doe/data-reporting/collection/helpdesk/resources/staff-dataentry-guides, and contact the Help Desk with questions regarding the proper way to enter staff information in the NEO information system.
  • Schools will no longer submit the annual reports via email or mail. New this year, and mirroring the Maine Schools Update deadlines, is a new online process using the Private School Annual Report link, with which private schools will submit their annual report with supporting checklist documentation.
  • There are two revisions to requirement submission:
    • Any school that does not have current NEASC accreditation, or that enrolls 60% or more publicly funded students as determined by the previous year’s October and April average enrollment, must include Curriculum/Program of Study documentation which provides evidence of instruction in elementary schools as specified in 20-A M.R.S. §§ 4701, 4704, 4706 and 4711 and/or in secondary schools as specified in 20-A M.R.S. §§ 4701, 4704, 4706, 4722 (including establishing a CTE pathway to graduation), 4722-A, 4723 and 4724, and in the basic curriculum established by Rule [Chapter 127] and in alignment with the system of learning results established in 20-A M.R.S. § 6209.
    • Any request for approval  for the receipt of public funds for tuition purposes will be contingent upon the receipt and acceptance of all basic school approval documentation by July 1 (or September 1 for new schools) and receipt of the Year-End Report of Private Schools  (Form EF-M 240) by September 1. This financial report, previously requested to go directly to the DOE finance office, will now be submitted using the same link to the Private School Annual Report. The link may be accessed multiple times in order to ensure submission of required basic information by an earlier due date, and financial information by the later September 1 due date. Upon full approval, schools approved for tuition purposes will appear on this Approved List and Tuition Rates Website. However, because of the annual budget process, tuition rates for 2021-2022 will not be calculated until December. Until that time, estimated tuition will be used. Please contact Paula.B.Gravelle@maine.gov with additional questions.

Summary of Private School Approval Deadlines

  • May 15 – July 1: NEO Maine Schools and annual report submission for continuing schools
  • July 1 – Sept 1: NEO Maine Schools and annual report submission for new schools
  • September 1: NEO Staff update and certification deadline for all schools
  • September 1: EF-M-240 due for tuition-receiving schools
  • No later than September 30: NEO Staff and certification/background checking feedback to schools

Detailed Directions: Private School Approval and NEO
Maine Schools NEO Module 

The NEO Maine Schools form is required by all public and private schools to inform DOE of school and school administrative unit contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. to be updated in Maine Schools, the superintendent or chief administrator of the school must first be entered into the NEO Staff Module. Access to NEO staff can be obtained by submitting a NEO Access Request Form to the MEDMS Helpdesk as follows:

Log in to the NEO information system. Click on Maine Schools. If you do not see this option on your menu, and are a superintendent (for private schools, this is the chief administrator of school), technical coordinator, or administrative assistant, please contact the MEDMS Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896.
When completing the Maine Schools Module, please be aware that all fields, with the exception of Administrative Office Fax, are required. Also, PO Boxes are not valid entries in the “Physical Address” box and the mailing address is needed only if it is different from physical address. At the bottom of the form, check the box to confirm that all information has been reviewed before signing and submitting the form.

Staff NEO Module
For security and privacy purposes, all staff information must be properly entered in the NEO Staff module. The School Approval office utilizes only the NEO public portal Staff Positions search function, together with internal staff violations reporting, to verify that all staff have appropriate certifications and/or clearance. Neither certification nor clearance information should be manually or electronically submitted in any format with school approval materials. This ensures that private information is being relayed in a safe manner.

Private School Annual School Approval Report and Documentation 
The annual report, with required checklist documentation, is currently submitted separately from the NEO system to DOE’s School Enrollment/Approval Specialist, using the Private School Annual Report. The NEO requirements need not be completed prior to the submission of the annual report; however, school approval will not be issued until the NEO information is complete and verified.

School Year Private School Student Reporting
School approval includes the requirement that all private schools provide attendance data on their publicly funded students in the Synergy student information system.
Currently, every private school that seeks tuition from a school administrative unit is already entering information into the Synergy student information system for each student for whom they seek public funds. The attendance data entry is comprised of the number of days in the reporting period for which the student is enrolled, the number of days they were present, and the number of days of excused absences. This data needs to be updated and reviewed quarterly and certified on June 30th.

To ensure both enrollment count and that private schools are on track to receive the appropriate tuition allocation, the following guidelines should be closely followed:

  1. In order for attendance data to be submitted, NEO Maine Schools organizational information must have been submitted and approved. If Maine Schools is not submitted, enrollment and attendance cannot be uploaded, and EPS cannot be processed;
  2. The first instance of submitting attendance for publicly funded students at private schools, which is due quarterly, must be entered by October 15 and includes the attendance period July 1 through September 30. The next reporting period (to be entered by January 15) will require updated attendance numbers through December, and so on. More details about attendance data submission, and a helpful training manual document, can be found in Student Attendance Reporting and Attendance Manual Entry Guide.
  3. Publicly funded October 1st student enrollment data must be entered by October 15; certified by October 31.

Please contact the MEDMS Help Desk at 624-6896, or MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov for assistance with NEO or the student information system. For staff certification questions, please contact the DOE Certification Team at cert.DOE@maine.gov. Please contact Paula Gravelle at 624-6792 or Paula.B.Gravelle@maine.gov for questions about tuition. And, for questions about school approval please call Pamela Ford-Taylor at 624-6617, or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov.