RSU 29 board updated on COVID-19 status

HOULTON, Maine — RSU 29 appears to be weathering the COVID-19 storm fairly well, based on the latest information provided by Superintendent Ellen Halliday.

The superintendent told the RSU 29 school board Monday evening that the number of students who elect to remain in a remote learning model, while their schools have remained open, has slowly declined as the year has progressed.

“Our remote numbers continued to go down,” Halliday said. “At our peak, we were probably around 250 students [opting for remote learning] and now we are around 159 students. Parents are asking for their children to come back and as we can make room for them, we are accommodating those requests.”

The use of two portable classroom buildings added to Houlton Elementary and Houlton Southside schools has greatly aided the district’s efforts to provide adequate spacing for students. The modular building for Houlton Southside School has been connected to the school with a corridor, so that it appears as a natural extension of the building from the inside, Halliday added.

A similar corridor could not be constructed at Houlton Elementary School because that building is not equipped with a fire suppression/sprinkler system. 

“I am pleased that the buildings are being used and their primary goal is to give us extra space as more students come back to in-person learning,” Halliday said.

The number of incidents of COVID-19 close contact exposures have also appeared to dwindle.

“I am happy to say that it has been awhile since we have any close contacts [with COVID-19] in any of our schools,” Halliday said. 

In other agenda items, the board welcomed its two newest members — Christopher Cain and Sara Wotton Deveau, both of Littleton. The board also formally accepted Halliday’s resignation, as she is leaving the district at the end of the school year to relocate to New Hampshire.

The superintendent told the board that the 2021-22 budget would likely be ready for review at the next regular meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, May 3, at Houlton High School.

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