The Star-Herald

SAD 1 enters Winter Kids competition and opens new kitchen and workshop

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Pine Street Elementary students are heading outside to compete for a chance to win $10,000 for their school.

Pine Street Elementary School Principal William Guerrette and Pine Street teacher Angel Casavant told the SAD 1 school board Wednesday night that the school has joined the statewide competition Maine Winter Kids. The board also learned of a new teaching kitchen located at the Skyway Learning Center and a multipurpose workshop area at Presque Isle High School.

The goal of Winter Kids is to encourage kids to develop healthy habits outdoors. The local students will compete with 21 other schools for a range of prizes, the largest being $10,000 the winning school can use however it chooses. The competition takes place over four weeks, with each week focusing on a new habit. 

To be accepted into the contest, Casavant submitted an essay and video of the school. The video allowed students to be together for the first time in the school year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“After the kids came back inside after filming, they were so happy and to them it was the best day ever,” Casavant said.

SAD 1 Adult and Community Education Director LeRae Kinney said the teaching kitchen lab will have a fully stocked pantry and multiple stoves and ovens. The area can be used by all grades and classes in the district.

Cooking classes have been highly requested throughout SAD 1, so the schools partnered with Northern Light AR Gould Hospital and the Aroostook County Action Program to create lessons about healthy nutrition and meal planning.

Husson University and MMG Insurance helped construct the workshop area at Presque Isle High School, which will serve multiple functions and can comfortably seat 40 people, Kinney said. One of its uses will be for juniors and seniors, through partnership with Husson, to access the university’s early college access program.

In other business, SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw said there have been 132 cases of COVID-19 in the district since Dec. 15, which is the highest monthly increase thus far, with 32 cases in the district this week. 

Greenlaw reported on major changes to the standard operating procedure, which as of Jan. 12 now no longer requires the school to trace close contacts at all. 

Since Dec. 29, close contacts no longer had to quarantine in a school with universal masking, and contact tracing was no longer required for students on buses or outside. Isolation periods were changed from 10 days to five. 

Additionally, 15 percent of the school population must be infected to be considered an outbreak. Before this, a school was considered an “outbreak” if there were three contact-linked cases across three different households. 

“We are continuing to monitor how this spreads, but as long as we have the staff to operate, we will remain open,” Greenlaw said.

The board examined the projects and utilities that have so far been completed or purchased with relief funds. The most recent funds from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund III, have only seen the use of $745,052, and the district has $3,171,600 to use before the request expires in September 2024. 

Greenlaw said graduation will be held outside on the turf field at the middle school once again this year, on Saturday, June 11. 

The board approved the appointment of Tasha Jeffords as a life skills specialist at the high school, and acknowledged the need for another behavior specialist at Pine Street Elementary. 

Teacher Janice Wright and Director of Technology Daren Hunter announced their resignations from SAD 1. The board said the two would be greatly missed, but wished them luck on their next endeavors. 

The board also welcomed new members Karl Dampf and Brian Hall.

The next SAD 1 school board meeting will take place Wednesday, February 16 at 5:30 pm in the Presque Isle High School cafeteria.

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