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School Committee 6/7 Meeting Summary

Chair Don Jamison started off the meeting by announcing that the Committee members were not wearing masks because they are all fully vaccinated and there were no additional people present.

There were a few adjustments to the published agenda, including several additional staff nominations.

There were no public comments.

Mr. Jamison read a thank you note from the Class of 2022 for the School Committee’s help in making Prom a success this year.

Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson provided an update on the construction work at Sanford Pride Elementary School. The site work is 95% done. Areas A and B are going through a final clean this week. Some electrical and finish items are still to be done. The gym flooring installation is ongoing. In Area C, electrical code work is beginning this week and lighting is being installed. The contractor is expecting to get temporary certificates of occupancy for Areas A & B in the next couple of weeks, and for Area C by mid-July, so that teachers and staff can begin moving in.

Vice Chair Paula Cote gave an update on the Sanford Performing Arts Center.  Several end-of-year school events are happening this week. On Saturday, June 12 SPAC will host a performance of The Fairy Queen” by the Portland Bach Experience, part of the Bach Virtuosi Festival that features events all over southern Maine. The concert will be livestreamed on WSSR-TV at 7:00 p.m. Ms. Cote said SPAC is exceeding rental income projections for spring, and has become the area’s preferred performance space for dance events. Effective Thursday, performers and attendees at non-school events will no longer be required to social distance or wear masks.

Committee member Jonathan Mapes reported on the Sanford Community Adult Education graduation ceremony which took place Sunday night. He said it was very gratifying to watch and hear the graduates’ success stories. Last year’s graduates, who never had a formal ceremony, were recognized as well.

Mr. Nelson gave his Power Point “News From Sanford Schools” presentation. See separate story. He also spoke about the AP Capstone Symposium and the Rotary Scholarship breakfast. He attended the Bridge Program’s graduation ceremony and presented diplomas to three graduates (the fourth is graduating at SHS). He reported on some technological issues with a server failure at the high school.

In his brief update on the return to full-time in-person learning in the fall, Mr. Nelson said the district still has about 20 positions to fill, including an assistant principal for SHS, several teachers and a nurse. He expressed his appreciation to the school administrators and hiring teams for all the work that has been done. The School Department is also working hard to make sure to order all the necessary materials so they are received before the beginning of the school year.

Mr. Nelson went over Covid guidelines for the summer athletics program. He also announced the donation of an electric piano from Southern Maine Health Care, which will be used at Sanford Middle School; and a donation of computers from Hussey Seating, which will go to the SRTC programming classes.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere gave an overview of the Covid-19 pool testing, which the Department plans to implement in the fall. With pool testing, which will require the approval of parents and staff, students in a classroom would swab their noses, and all the swabs would be pooled together into a tube and sent out for testing. Results would be received in 48 hours. If the pool tests negative, all within the pool are considered negative and can remain in school. If the pool tests positive, students and staff would be retested individually with the BinaxNOW rapid test. The individual(s) testing positive would have to leave school and quarantine, but if at least 30% of a class participates in the testing, the others would NOT have to quarantine, even if they are close contacts. That is the primary benefit of pool testing. The other benefit of 30% participation is that the social distancing requirement will be eliminated. School officials have indicated in the past that the social distancing requirement is the main hindrance to returning to full in-person education. There was discussion as to whether pool testing would eliminate the current requirement to wear masks in schools. Mr. Bussiere said he thought masks would still be required, but will double check. The School Department will be sending a survey out to parents over the summer to gauge interest in participation.

Mr. Bussiere also went over the new immunization law that takes effect in September. It removes all exemptions for required immunizations other than for medical reasons. A round of notices have been sent to families, and a second round will be sent over the summer. He is particularly concerned about the MCV4 vaccines required for students who are entering 7th and 12th grades, as there have been problems with compliance in the past. A vaccine clinic will be scheduled to align with sports physicals on June 28. The Committee approved the first reading of a new immunization policy which clarifies the changes to the law.

Screening for incoming kindergarten students is underway this week. After the screening process is over, parents will be notified which school their student will attend. The Jump Start program for about 32 kids will begin after a busing schedule is set up. Mr. Bussiere also reported on an online registration process for incoming students to the district. A pilot testing program has worked well, and he expects it to be rolled out in July. The online process will eliminate the need for parents to come into the office and fill out paperwork. He concluded his report with a reminder that tech devices will be made available over the summer for students who need them.

Business manager Cheryl Fournier gave her year-end budget report. She estimates that the Department is about a million dollars under budget, nearly all of that in salaries and benefits. One reason why the salaries were not spent is that there were several teacher, ed tech and maintenance positions that were open during the year. Others were able to be paid with Covid funds. She said a budget freeze at the beginning of the year, before Covid subsidies were received, also contributed to the surplus. Mr. Mapes gave kudos to her for her work, noting that there are roughly 4,000 line items in the school budget. Ms. Fournier also presented the April financial report.

The Committee approved a renewal of the agreement to share the position of Adult Education Director with SAD 60, which includes Berwick, North Berwick and Lebanon, for another year. All agreed it is working out well.

The Committee approved a new one-year contract with the food service workers, who had already voted their approval. Ms. Fournier said the major change to the contract is the wage scale, which had to be completely revised to attract and retain employees. The starting wage for a food service worker in the last contract was less than that paid by McDonald’s and other local restaurants. “We want to get good employees and keep them,” she said.

Mr. Nelson read through the list of staff resignations, appointments and nominations. Shawnda Lapointe, school nurse at Sanford Middle School, is resigning effective August 31, along with SMS resource room teacher Amy Politano, and Lindsay Tibbetts, Health teacher at Margaret Chase Smith School. It was noted that two staff members who had left the District will be returning.

Under future agenda items, Mr. Jamison requested the discussion of the composition of the high school scheduling committee take place at the next School Committee meeting on June 21.

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