MSAD 11 Launches 8 Committee Return to School Planning Process in Response to COVID-19

As with many schools around the State of Maine, the nation, and across the globe, planning for the 2020/2021 school year has been an almost impossible task with not knowing what will be around the corner during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those in the trenches of planning is the fearless team at MSAD 11/RSU 11. They have worked tirelessly this summer at engaging their community and being transparent in the processes as they work to respond to the pandemic situation.

“I believe that it is critical that schools continue to highlight their strengths and I’m especially proud of the collaborative work of the district and the process that (MSAD 11 Superintendent) Pat Hopkins has led us through in this district,” said MSAD 11 Director of Curriculum and Instruction Angela Hardy.

The team worked on a process for redesigning their school system by August 24 which included the launch of an 8 committee Return to School Planning Process. A Steering Committee was formed to facilitate the process after first developing a set of guiding principles for their work. The committees were composed of 100 people representing all levels of staff, the School Board, parents, and community members. Seven subcommittees meet weekly or more, led by administrators throughout the summer, to focus on their charge: Facilities/Safety; Food Service; Resources; Transportation; Communications; Core Instruction/SEL/Technology; and, Athletics. Every subcommittee has staff, parent/community, and administrator representation and reported out at the Steering Committee. “MSAD 11 is as prepared as it can be because of the trust our community has of our educators and the commitment our principals and directors have toward the health and well-being of their staff and students. The leadership’s willingness to listen to concerns and their drive to come to creative, thoughtful solutions in a collaborative manner is paramount to this process.” stated the Director of Curriculum.

“Beginning in the spring, Supt Hopkins has kept staff informed at every step as we went through ‘remote learning’ and the end of the 2019-2020 school year.  When it became obvious that we would not be returning as normal in the fall, a Return to School Committee was put together.  This committee included 20 teachers and additional staff members from a group of employees,” said Dean Hall, President of the MSAD 11 Teachers’ Association, GRMS Social Studies Teacher.  “All staff had a chance to serve and those who did serve had a real voice in developing the plan we will be using to start the school year.”

The Steering Committee, the decision making body which recommends to the Administrative Team or School Board next steps, met weekly and livestreamed each meeting and posted the recording on their YouTube page and Return to School Planning website.

The district has also held virtual district-wide staff meetings to respond to staff questions and concerns as they arose. In addition, the superintendent met weekly with every president of each Association to co-design a COVID staff handbook.

“We would like to thank MSAD 11 for their continued commitment to the safety of their students, staff, and surrounding community,” said Chad Greenleaf, President of the Educational Technicians & Administrative Assistants Association. “I applaud the district leaders for their willingness to extend an offer of teamwork. Through the collaborative process that involved representatives from every area of expertise within the school district and community, we were able to assemble a comprehensive yet flexible plan.”

To further engage with community stakeholders, MSAD 11 administrators collaborated with their regional representative from Maine Roads to Quality and hosted a virtual meeting with MSAD 11/RSU 11 daycare providers to help them navigate the district’s online resources and information and to collaborate towards solutions that will support families as they return to school in a hybrid/blended/cohort-based learning model. They plan to continue meeting virtually as the school year progresses to keep open lines of communication and revisit issues that arise.

Virtual parent meetings have also been on-going as the school year starts, with each building principal and the directors of special services to walk parents through the start of the school year, share the district’s newly designed district-wide student handbook, and explain the schedule in greater detail.

“The MSAD 11 community should know their voices were heard. They can be proud of the result we were able to attain through this process,” added Greenleaf. “We remain committed to our student’s education and well-being regardless of the challenges ahead.”

This story was written collaboratively between distinct staff at MSAD 11/RSU 11 and Maine Department of Education staff as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea please email it to Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Joe Mason of Asa Adams Elementary School Honored as Maine School Custodian of the Year

Joe Mason of Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono has been awarded as the Maine School Custodian of the Year and will be the recipient of the A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence.

Joe credits the “Read ME Agriculture” program as a factor that lead him to reach out to the community more for volunteers and also working with staff to coordinate readings, he says, “This is one of the many things that really made my role as a custodian expand to also become involved in doing something other than just cleaning for the kids, but actually getting to ‘teach’, if you will.”

Joe started as a custodian at Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono in September of 2014. He became Greenhouse Coordinator 3 1/2 years ago and it was at that time he learned about the MAITC “Read ME Agriculture” program. Not long after that he had the school lined up for the ‘Applesauce Day’ reading, and has continued with the program since then.

In addition to the annual readings, he also works with some kids who help water the plants in the school’s greenhouse. He’s worked with small groups of students in the past couple of years to do things like build bee boxes for Mason bees, start marigold seeds, and grow edible pea shoots.

Outside of work Joe is also an avid home gardener, and loves to pickle things: cucumbers, zucchini, fiddleheads, carrots, asparagus, and green beans. He is also a passionate disc golf player (and a state winner three times!), and has helped get the sport incorporated into the PE program at his school.

Congratulations to Joe on this well deserved award!

This story is courtesy of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC). Learn more about MAITC by visiting their website at https://www.agclassroom.org/ME/

St. George School 2nd Grade Teacher Shares, “Student Voices: An Alphabet Book of Remote Learning”

A driving force behind all learning opportunities in Alison Babb-Brott’s second grade classroom is the power and importance of student voice. When students feel confident and empowered, their initiative, engagement, and quality of work all begin to increase. And as these habits of scholarship all start to increase, so do Ms. Babb expectations. It is this symbiotic relationship that underlies all of the work they do in second grade.

With so much lost to remote learning, Ms. Babb wanted to create an authentic, motivating project for her students that would lend itself not only to their voices, but also to their desire and ability to create.

She designed this project to give her students a space to reflect on the transition to remote learning and an opportunity to channel feelings of grief and powerlessness into a collaborative art project.

The students spent the final weeks of remote learning thinking, writing, sharing, revising, and drafting, and drawing to create letter pages that commemorate their remote schooling experiences.

The effort they put forth to create such a high quality product, especially given the many challenges to remote creation, is a credit to who they are as scholars.

Student Voices: An Alphabet Book of Remote Learning

“I hope my students will share this book with friends and family near and far, and that copies will eventually make their way onto bookshelves and coffee tables at home; reminding them of what they are capable of, no matter the circumstances,” said Babb-Brott.

This story was submitted by Alison Babb-Brott, a Second Grade Teacher at St. George School in St. George as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. In addition to being a second grade teacher, Babb-Brott is also the 2020 Knox County Teacher of the Year and was recently named a 2021 Teacher of the Year State finalist.

To submit a good news story or idea to the DOE, email Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

MSAD 54 Serves 500k Meals, Travels 48k Miles to Feed Kids During Pandemic

Our MSAD 54 family has had great success in feeding our students during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of our transportation department, administration, ed techs and of course or school nutrition team we were able to serve close to 500k meals and traveled 48k miles between the months of March-June.

We received many words of appreciation, cards, photos of the children, and signs around the towns thanking us for all that we have done. It has been a great and humbling experience for all of us that have been involved over the last couple of months.

This story was submitted by Jana Wacome, Director – School Nutrition, RSU 54/MSAD 54 as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Efficiency Maine Helps Brighten More than 50 Maine Public Schools with Incentives to Support Lighting Upgrades

More than 50 Maine public schools are upgrading the quality of their interior and exterior lighting through a special Efficiency Maine initiative.

The principal goal of Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit initiative is to reduce electric energy consumption from Maine K-12 municipal schools and to accelerate the conversion to efficient LED lighting. The offer supported project work for electricians and encouraged schools to complete the lighting conversions over the 2020 summer while school buildings are unoccupied.

“We were very glad to see broad participation stretching from Kittery to Calais to the County,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust.

Eligible electrical efficiency lighting retrofit projects include interior and exterior lighting upgrades in classrooms, hallways, lobbies, entryways, stairways, auditoriums, libraries, cafeterias, offices, gymnasiums, parking lots, and public restrooms.

“This grant program will help 50 schools across the state to have better lighting while conserving energy and reducing costs,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This initiative not only helps our state meet its energy goals, but it allows schools to use the savings to support students and teachers in other important ways.”

Limestone Community School in Limestone is among the schools that has benefited from the incentive program. The school received more than $38,000 in incentives to upgrade lighting in its classrooms, auditorium, library, offices, bathrooms and parking lot. The school will see an estimated annual savings of more than $19,000 (129,975 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.3 years.

 According to Superintendent Bill Dobbins, they are elated with the results and already have received inquiries from other district schools interested in pursuing similar projects.

“We viewed this project as a way to create a better atmosphere for the educational growth of our children,” explained Dobbins. “Efficiency Maine’s School Lighting Retrofit program enabled us to combine and accelerate two projects that our budget alone couldn’t accommodate in the same year. We were able to complete it using less money from Limestone taxpayers and while the children weren’t in school. We’re hoping the new brighter, uniform lighting will make it easier for them to do their schoolwork. In the meantime, we’ve already heard from our local police department that it’s easier for them to patrol the school grounds because the exterior lighting is so improved.”

St. John Valley Technology Center in Frenchville is equally satisfied. The school contributed approximately $20,000 to the project and Efficiency Maine contributed $13,000 to upgrade lighting in its entryways, hallways, and gyms. The school will see an estimated annual savings of nearly $7,000 (46,163 kWh) and will realize a return on investment in an estimated 2.8 years.

“There’s no question, improving lighting enhances the ability of students to learn,” said Kevin Lavoie, director of St. John Valley Technology Center. “We’re reducing our carbon footprint because LED lighting is more energy efficient. This program also has reduced the tax burden on our community and has created jobs for Maine’s workforce. That’s a triple win as far as we’re concerned. In addition, we’re especially pleased we could complete the project this summer.”

Songo Locks Elementary School and the Educational Services building for the Lake Region Vocational Center in Naples have brighter futures, as well. Together, the schools received more than $10,000 in incentives to upgrade exterior lighting and will see an estimated annual savings of more than $5,000 (39,481 kWh).

 Andrew Madura, director of Transportation, Facilities and Food Services for Naples schools, is confident the projects will help the schools save money and energy. Two years ago, Madura managed an interior lighting project using incentives from Efficiency Maine, which resulted in a 20% to 25% reduction in energy consumption for those measures.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to be more efficient,” explained Madura. “With a limited budget, this program was very helpful. We were able to complete both projects without allocating additional capital funds. It has particularly benefited the Educational Services building, which houses our buses and equipment. The exterior lighting at the building is on constantly in the evenings for security purposes, making the energy consumption fairly high.

“The nighttime staff have noticed and appreciate the improved lighting,” said Madura. “Aesthetically, it’s much more attractive. It’s also more controlled lighting, ensuring that our residential neighbors don’t experience light spill. Overall, we now have better lighting that requires less maintenance and uses less energy. To me, that’s an efficiency trifecta.”

Louis DiFrederico, facilities manager for the Millinocket School Department, managed projects at Stearns Junior – Senior High School and Granite Street Elementary School. DiFrederico already is a firm believer in the savings he can derive from Efficiency Maine initiatives, having managed a similar lighting upgrade 10 years ago with incentive funds. This time around, the projects improved lighting in the gymnasiums and corridors at the high school and upgraded lighting in the elementary school classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, and lobby. By matching Efficiency Maine’s incentives, DiFrederico estimates the school department will save $7000 a year for the elementary school and $6000 a year for the high school.

“Given the nature of limited school budgets and funding, I had to look for creative ways to get the job done,” explained DiFrederico. “This was a relatively easy process that was readily available and translated into real dollar savings up front and long-range. Without Efficiency Maine’s incentives, I would not have been able to complete these projects.”

DiFrederico was especially keen after he did the math. He calculated that by upgrading the lighting in all the elementary school classrooms energy load dropped from 1100 watts per classroom to 400 watts. Together, both projects will save an estimated 87,000 kWh annually.

“It used to cost $1.33 a day to light each elementary school classroom and now it costs 48 cents,” he said. “The new LED fixtures not only provide better light, but they look better, and provide a modern update to the buildings. Teachers and staff have also thanked me for brightening their classrooms and the building. To me, those benefits are a win-win for the district.”

Efficiency Maine accepted applications for the School Lighting Retrofit Funding Opportunity Notice (FON) between February 10, 2020, and June 1, 2020. The funding opportunity is now closed. Funding was calculated based on the amount of electricity saved by each project in the first year and was subject to caps of 80% of the total project cost and $100,000 per school district.

Efficiency Maine’s Prescriptive Program, which funded the school initiative, offers fixed incentives to reduce the cost of projects and to improve energy efficiency for businesses, municipalities, schools and higher education facilities, manufacturing and other industrial facilities, other non-residential facilities, and multifamily and condominium buildings with five or more units.

To learn more about the Efficiency Maine Prescriptive Program and how to maximize its benefits visit https://www.efficiencymaine.com/at-work/ci-prescriptive-incentive-program/.

About Efficiency Maine Trust
Efficiency Maine Trust is the independent administrator for programs to improve the efficiency of energy use and reduce greenhouse gases in Maine. The Trust does this primarily by delivering financial incentives on the purchase of high-efficiency equipment or changes to operations that help customers save electricity, natural gas and other fuels throughout the Maine economy. The Trust is a quasi-state agency governed by a Board of Trustees with oversight from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Visit www.efficiencymaine.com for more information.