In a referendum vote at the end of the month, Skowhegan-area residents are scheduled to approve or nix the use of federal pandemic relief funding for the renovation of a school and improving internet access, among other spending items.

School Administrative District 54 is asking voters if federal funds can be spent on building an addition at Skowhegan Area Middle School, and to make improvements to HVAC, wiring and windows, and other renovations “at one or all” of the district’s elementary schools. The plan is to also expand broadband coverage.

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

The district-wide referendum vote is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 31, at each town’s respective office.

If approved, an amount not to exceed $6,970,000 will be used to fund the projects through federal grants. Although the board expects the project to be funded entirely by a federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant, the district will need to issue bonds or notes to cover project costs until the money is received and to cover any portions that the grants don’t fully fund.

“The intent of these projects is to use federal funding allocated to SAD 54 for the district-wide response to address the COVID-19 public health emergency to meet recommendations of the state and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including social distancing and air quality improvements,” Superintendent Jon Moody said in an email.


Moody explained that the projects include “significant work” at both Canaan and Bloomfield elementary schools to address issues with ventilation there.

An addition would be built to the middle school on the side of the building facing Route 2, creating four new classrooms. Separately, the cafeteria will be expanded, adding about 1,100 square feet. If approved and when construction is complete, sixth-grade students from Canaan and Mill Stream elementary schools are expected to relocate to the middle school “by the start of the 2023-24 school year.”

The projects, if greenlighted by the district’s voters, are likely to be completed mid-year during the 2022-23 school year, Moody said, adding that students would not transition mid-year, but at the start of the following school year.

The expanded square footage will allow students to practice social distancing at both the middle- and elementary-school levels. According to Moody, “the project would also allow us to expand free pre-K programming and interventions for our youngest learners” as the district gains space from moving the sixth graders.

To date, SAD 54 has received over $16 million in coronavirus relief funding through three different grants: $1,116,703 in July 2020 from ESSER I (CARES ACT); $4,621,847 in December 2020 from ESSER II (CARES ACT 2); $10,383,195 in March 2021 from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“The vast majority of our federal funds were focused on getting our kids in school and keep them in school,” Moody said. “We are proud of the amount of time we’ve had our kids in school considering the regulations.”

He said that the focus is to keep pupils in school safe. SAD 54 intends to “use these funds in ways that will have a long-term positive impact on the district,” according to Moody.

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