FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 Food Service Director Andrew Hutchins told directors Tuesday night that he anticipates a $120,000 loss for the food nutrition program.

COVID-19 has really been devastating to our financial picture of the school lunch program,” Hutchins said, adding that the program receives funding based on the number of meals served.

The food service budget, which consistently breaks even every year, is independent of the district budget.

RSU 9 has launched a number of outreach programs to serve students meals during the pandemic. The pickup program serves about 50 to 60 meals every day and the recently launched home delivery service serves about 125 students a day, Hutchins reported.

Nonetheless, remote learning has impacted the number of students typically served through the district’s nutrition program.

“It’s simple numbers; just like restaurants need to turn tables to make ends meet, we need to turn trays to make ends meet,” Hutchins said.

Farmington board member Kirk Doyle asked what the remaining amount would be in the program’s fund balance after the anticipated loss and if the district needed to prepare its budget to include the nutrition program.

“That will still leave us with about $150,000 in our fund balance,” Hutchins said. “So once the school year kicks in, we have money coming in and going out every month and we can easily survive on $150,000 for next year. So I don’t anticipate having to add anything to the budget even in the next several years.”

In another matter, Curriculum Coordinator Laura Columbia and interim Superintendent Monique Poulin discussed the fate of the district’s remote learning academy if schools had the option to return to full in-person instruction.

For the rest of the year I will say yes, we will continue to offer our full-remote academy,” Columbia said. “The students and parents who have been with it since the beginning love it and really appreciate the option it offers.” 

According to RSU 9 data, there are 530 fully remote learners who represent 23% of the student population.

Poulin iterated that any significant proposed changes to school instruction will go before the board for approval before implementation.

Columbia presented an academic update in regard to Star 360, which assesses students in grades two to 11 with computer-based standardized tests. The assessment program launched in the fall 2018 and shows consistent trends with 50 to 60% of students scoring at or above average in reading and 46% to 51%  scoring at or above average in math.

Starks board member Carol Coles reported on a pilot program initiated by the board of directors drop-out prevention committee which consists of a satellite remote learning center in Starks.

It’s been prioritized for Starks’ kids, and the reason that we’re doing it in Starks at the community center is it has adequate internet,” Coles said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s better than most of our homes and parents have responded really well.”

Chairperson Angela LeClair announced that a preliminary proposed budget would be presented to the budget committee March 12 and 19.

After the board returned from executive session, members approved a memorandum of agreement with the Mt. Blue Education Association to further discuss the teacher labor contract.

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