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Federal funds help SAD 70 navigate COVID-19 times

HODGDON, Maine — SAD 70, like most school districts in the state, has benefited tremendously from federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

SAD 70 Superintendent Stephen Fitzpatrick updated his board Monday evening on a number of items the district has been able to purchase this year thanks to federal money received from COVID Relief Fund grants.

The state received two rounds of federal funds to be used for educational systems to help get schools ready to open, and then to help them remain open during the pandemic. The first round of funds for Maine totaled $165 million, while the second round added another $164 million.

The first round of funds was aimed at providing money for facility and technology upgrades for schools to reopen, while the second round was designed to assist schools with additional staff, transportation and facility needs, cleaning supplies and professional development.

For SAD 70, two CRF grants totaling $875,291 were received since the onset of COVID-19. The first round of CRF was used to acquire a new school bus and two minivans to assist with student transportation because of the guidelines schools must now follow for social distancing, the superintendent said. 

In addition, the district was able to hire additional staff for both Mill Pond Elementary and Hodgdon Middle-High School to better coordinate the district’s COVID response efforts, particularly in the custodial department.

The second round of CRF was used to purchase a second school bus, a pickup truck and a tractor, as well as numerous student desks; a portable warmer for the food services department; and additional hours for any teacher who worked beyond their normal contract hours.

Because the district did not have to spend its regular budget for the additional COVID measures, it was able to complete three renovation projects at the two schools. A new parking lot at the high school was completed and portions of the roof on both buildings were replaced.

The board budgeted $1,158,365 for its operation and maintenance of the buildings, with a portion of that line to cover the repair projects. Thus far the district has spent $651,294 (56 percent) of the line item, but Fitzpatrick noted the budget would likely fall in line with projections as the school year wears on.

In other budget items, the board was given an update on the fall sports season by Athletic Director Wayne Quint, who lauded the boys and girls soccer teams for their performances this past season.

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