Maine School Administrative District 13 was able to purchase 10 laptops Monday thanks to a donation from an energy company meant to reduce the negative impact of the coronavirus on the region.

Sandra MacArthur, superintendent in Maine School Administrative District 13, said the 10 HP Elite 360 notebook computers the district has bought with Blue Sky West’s donation will be used to supplement the laptops the district has distributed to students or staff members in Bingham and Moscow.

The $10,292 donation came from Blue Sky West, a company that manages the Bingham Wind Project, a wind farm with 56 turbines that began operating in 2016.

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent recommendations from the state to close school buildings and engage in distance learning, rural school districts have been challenged to provide the means by which students can engage in their studies.

With the grant, SAD 13, which includes Bingham and Moscow, bought 10 HP Elite 360 notebook computers.

The computers will be used to supplement those the district has deployed to students or faculty members to use for distance learning.

“We have 180 students in the district from pre-K to 12th grade,” said Sandra MacArthur, superintendent in SAD 13.

“Students from pre-K to sixth grade have access to laptops that normally aren’t taken home, and grades seven through 12 have devices that go home. We’ve now deployed all of our devices.” 

MacArthur said the district bought the extra laptops to have in case any that were distributed needed to be upgraded or replaced.

“We’ve had to deploy more devices than ever before,” MacArthur said. “Some devices needed to be upgraded, so this is allowing us to make sure that all of our students have a device that is capable to do the remote learning we have to do right now.”

MacArthur said the district was notified of the donation Thursday.

“We’re very grateful and really appreciate the support that they’ve provided,” MacArthur said.  

Stacey Fitts, senior director of asset management for Blue Sky West’s parent company, Novatus Energy, said the idea to help SAD 13 came after the coronavirus pandemic began to intensify.

“We’re trying to help out where we can in these communities, especially during this situation,” Fitts said during a telephone interview Monday.

We reached out to the town (Bingham) to generally get a feel for where the needs would be and asked the community where they needed help. Sandy called back as a result of finding out that we may be able to help. This was a way to help them through what is a tough situation.”

Novatus Energy operates additional wind projects in Hancock and Oakfield, and the company has also donated to those communities, according to Fitts.

“Really, I just want people to know that our intent is to try to be involved in the communities where we can,” Fitts said. “We’re here to help.” 

Like other districts across the state, SAD 13 had to move to distance learning last month, but, according to MacArthur, feedback on the transition has been positive.

 “I think, overall, I’m pleased with how things are moving forward,” she said, “and the parents have been supportive and are grateful.”

Since the district has closed its schools, it has been delivering meals to its students five days a week.

“That’s been another big focus for us,” MacArthur said. “We just want to continue to help students and their families work through these tough times.”

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