SKOWHEGAN — Additional funding has been provided to School Administrative District 54, allowing for more technology and support for staff and students.

Superintendent Jon Moody said at Thursday’s board of directors meeting that the school was approved earlier in the week for a $2.4 million grant from the Coronavirus Relief Fund 2. That fund is one of three different programs, alongside the CARES Act and Coronavirus Relief Funding 1, that the district leveraged.

Jon Moody, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 54, addresses the board in August. On Thursday, Moody explained his plans to spend a third coronavirus relief grant — this time for $2.4 million — to expand technology capabilities by providing laptops for all students and staff, and additional cameras to eliminate blind spots in schools and allow for better contact tracing, among other priorities. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

The previous funds paid for two buses, three vans, personal protective equipment, plexiglass on desks, additional supplies, laptops and other technology. The additional funding will provide money for eight different areas: student support, staff support, school administration, personal protective equipment, operations maintenance, transportation, food service and community services.

MSAD 54 serves the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan.

Moody said this package is more restrictive and very limited compared to the previous ones, so administrators worked to make sure the plan was strategic and did not replace any previously budgeted items.

“This is pretty conservative as far as things that will be approved, but I’m trying to be forward thinking,” Moody said. “Most of our money is spent under student and staff supports, so I think we’ve put our money in the right places.”

This funding will allow the district to provide student and staff laptops so that everyone has a device. This includes ed techs, which is a first for the district. Most students currently have technology, though some needed programs have not worked on the older Chromebooks given to younger students and some remote learners. Also being purchased are interactive touch-screen board for teachers to use in their classrooms, additional cameras for blind spots within school facilities and ID cards to be used by staff when entering school facilities. The ID card and cameras are to make the process of contact tracing easier should any positive cases show up within the district, Moody said.

Earlier this month, MSAD 54 closed schools districtwide after an individual at Skowhegan Area High School tested positive for COVID-19. A few days later, a student at Mill Stream Elementary tested positive. Currently, Moody says that there are no positive cases of coronavirus within the district.

“It’s significant. It’s something that we certainly wouldn’t have looked at had we not had these funds, but it will position the district very well in the realm of technology moving forward,” Moody said.

Additionally, Moody proposed a revised schedule to the board for approval that would add three workshop days: Nov. 20, Dec. 14 and Jan. 15. Under executive order by Gov. Janet Mills, schools have the ability to add workshop time into school calendars to replace the student day.

Coming to this point involved conversations with teachers, administrators and parent groups, Moody said. He added that under their back-to-school plans, students in pre-K through grade six are allowed in the buildings every day and grades 7-12 attend every other day under a hybrid model. On the days that grades seven through 12 are home, they still have expectations and tasks to work on.

One board member spoke up with concerns about removing student days.

“I’m getting very concerned with the amount of school time the kids are not having,” Brandy Morgan said.

Moody said that this was something that was discussed and when students are learning remotely, they are still participating in school.

“Our district is doing more by way of time,” Moody said. “(Students) are coming to school when they’re home too; that is part of the learning plan. These are things you would only do and only entertain under a COVID-19 situation.”

Ultimately, the board approved of this request, with Morgan opposed.

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