GARDINER — The Maine School Administrative District 11 is down 73 students in comparison to Oct. 1 of the 2019 to 2020 academic year.

Superintendent Patricia Hopkins shared this information with the school board Thursday night, admitting that she is concerned about the drop in enrollment.

Superintendent Patricia Hopkins.

“Absolutely it concerns me,” she said. “When it comes to subsidy, we don’t know if there will be an adjustment though the legislature and if they could use October 2019 data, and if they don’t use the data, we are taking a $400,000 reduction in budget right off the bat.”

The Maine Department of Education uses data from Oct. 1 to April 1. to determine next year’s academic year funding for school districts. Students that switch to home-schooling are not counted in the public school system.

For home-schooling, the 2019-2020 school year had 93 students. The number jumped up to 150 students for the 2020-2021 school year, and in the first two weeks of school that jumped up to 170.

The number of students learning entirely remotely went up, too, from 277 at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, to 284 by Sept. 25.

Hopkins also talked about the first round of coronavirus funding and how the first round of $1.6 million was approved for MSAD 11. The second round that will be awarded to the district is $1.7 million and the budget will be due Oct. 15.

Hopkins discussed that the next round of funding could install a phone system in the event that MSAD 11 schools shut down, more technology and possibly funding for day care programs.

The board unanimously approved a motion to continue the Summer Meals Program until federal funding runs out. The board also unanimously approved a motion to eliminate early release days in the 2020-2021 academic year to “maximize” the amount of time that students have in school.

MSAD 11 has conducted a hybrid learning system that splits students into four cohorts, A and B, and if they choose to be fully remote, cohort C. Students that need specialized learning will be in cohort D.

At the school board meeting on Sept. 18, remote learning was reportedly going “smoothly” for students and teachers at the elementary and high school level, leaving the middle school update for this week.

The board unanimously voted to approve the raise of the daily pay for COVID long term substitute teachers from $90 a day to $120 through Dec. 30, using part of the $300,000 of the coronavirus relief funds dedicated to staff payment. The subs would be a four-days-a-week sub and assigned to one building to fill in for teachers that may be out.

Angela Hardy said that there have been “A few instances where a sub had not been located,” and that the pay increase was important to keep the district “competitive” as the need for subs will likely arise in the upcoming months because of the coronavirus.

Middle School Remote Learning Academy teacher Jeffrey Tripp and Principal John LaPerriere gave their remarks about remote learning, and Tripp gave it a “B” grade.

The only hiccups in remote learning were minor, like students wearing pajamas to online class or turning their camera off. At first, attendance and showing up on time was a small issue, but Tripp and LaPerriere said as students get used to it after a couple weeks, they have been better about it.

“Kids don’t like to be on the camera and at first, I had a lot of kids not turn on the camera,” Tripp said. “I encourage them to have it on. I understand shyness, and we are making progress. But it’s good for me to see who is engaged and who isn’t.”

Technology has been an issue with pre-school children. There were reports from teachers that video access was freezing, but that their laptops worked when plugged into an ethernet cord.

Terry McGuire, the director of technology said that she started looking into getting all of MSAD 11’s buildings re-wired by a local company using some of the $682,000 of the coronavirus relief funds. The construction will be done on Wednesdays and on weekends when students are not in the building.

The School Board recognized Board Chairperson Becky Fles for being awarded by the National School Board Association to represent the Northeast. She is the second person in Maine receive the honor.

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