BAR HARBOR — On Nov. 2, discussions concerning finances and an assortment of continuing projects filled out the agenda at the Bar Harbor School Committee Meeting.
Beginning her report, Conners Emerson principal Barbara Neilly said this fall has been fantastic for students and more have decided to return to in-person learning. She spoke of the successful Oct. 30 picture day, clothing swap donations, virtual parent-teacher conferences and fall sports teams. Teachers were praised for taking advantage of the weather this fall to teach students outdoors as well as participating in the optional professional development workshops. Educational grants will be issued this year to eligible teachers.
Neilly reported that the state reissued more PPE for students and teachers. Neilly was happy to say that “with help from the federal emergency grant, the school will be purchasing new playground pieces and outdoor gazebos to encourage continuation of outdoor learning,” before she reminded members of the COVID fund’s expiration date in December. To meet the spending deadline, she proposed buying new iPads, interactive TVs and possibly new cameras for the school security system. In her report to the school committee, she also said that she has hired an additional first grade teacher to meet this year’s larger class size and filled a few substitute–teacher positions with money from the COVID Relief Fund.
There are pockets of success with remote learning, explained Neilly, noting successful virtual learning for Kindergarten through second grade, but that every grade above the third is not doing as well. “Our eighth graders in particular are having difficulty hearing the teachers,” she said. Neilly said that while the teachers “in the virtual academy are working hard, there is no guarantee students are doing the same at home, especially if parents are absent when working.”
When the meeting was opened for public comment, School Committee Chairman Kristi Losquadro addressed her concerns about travel restrictions during school holiday breaks. “People should be aware of the current travel restrictions around vacation to avoid altercations amongst parents and students,” she said. Neilly said that nurses will continue to inquire and inform about guidelines for travel as the rules continue to change.
Regular affairs included discussions regarding the Conners Emerson building project and the annual budget for the 2022 fiscal year. The school will need millions to “insulate the Conners building, fix roofs, retrofit spaces, install new boilers and replace our ventilation system,” the principal said. She suggested the committee discuss details about a bond for the building project to be pitched at a town council meeting; however, the teachers remained undecided about the amount and time to ask. Neilly stressed her concerns about the next school budget because “it is still not clear that schools will be receiving more federal funding.”
In other business, the members examined bids for new cafeteria equipment. Out of two bids for a new cooking pan and refrigerator, they accepted a $22,795 bid from R.M. Flagg.