Shaun Frazier (left) and Keith Burgess, of Norlen’s Water Treatment in Orrington, install a filter system at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor on Tuesday. The system is intended to eliminate PFAS from the water. In July, the high school recorded levels of 85 parts per trillion, significantly higher than the state’s drinking water standard of 20 parts per trillion. ISLANDER PHOTO BY FAITH DEAMBROSE

Schools are ready to start new year

BAR HARBOR — Are the kids ready for school to start? The schools are ready for them. 

Classes for students throughout the Mountain Desert Island Regional School System begin Tuesday, Aug. 30. 

“All of our schools are ready for kids to come,” Superintendent Mike Zboray said Monday. “Our folks have been working diligently – painting, cleaning up the landscaping, getting the rooms ready.” 

Up until just a few weeks ago, there was concern that some of the schools might not have enough ed techs or special education teachers. Zboray said Monday that Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor was still looking to hire a special education teacher, but all the schools now have a full complement of ed techs. 

He said that earlier this year, Conners Emerson Principal Heather Webster put together a list of all the benefits of being an ed tech. In July, Zboray sent that list to all the parents of elementary school students in the district. 

“We have found that some of the ed techs who stayed with the schools the longest were parents of kids,” he said. “So, we thought maybe there are some parents who don’t realize that being an ed tech fits well with family life, and I think we got some of those.” 

As for protecting everyone from COVID-19, Zboray said it is strongly recommended that teachers, staff and students be vaccinated. But vaccination is not mandatory. 

”We know that vaccination is the best tool for protecting against severe disease,” he said. “If you get sick with a COVID infection, it likely won’t be as severe as if you had not been vaccinated.”  

Wearing masks in school is voluntary.  

“We recognize that it has been a protective benefit for the wearer, and folks should do that if they feel there is an uptick of cases in their classroom or their school,” Zboray said. 

He said he doesn’t anticipate making masking mandatory unless student absenteeism reaches 15 percent, which is the rate set by the state for infectious diseases. 

“Some of our schools have worked to upgrade their ventilation systems to support healthy air in classrooms,” he said. “I’m hoping that this year COVID will be more of a footnote than a headline. 

”One of the great things about this year is that Trenton Elementary did summer school for the whole district; it was our first time trying that. Custodians from schools around the district helped out for the startup of that program and then for getting Trenton ready for the regular school year. So, Trenton will be just as ready as all of the other schools.”  

High school’s PFAS fix 

MDI High School’s PFAS problem is being resolved. Earlier this year, high levels of these “forever chemicals” were found in the school’s water. The water fountains were shut off and bottled water was brought in. 

Principal Matt Haney said Monday that Norlen’s Water Treatment was installing a carbon filtering system this week, and that should be completed by Friday. The cost of nearly $30,000 is being paid by the state. 

Zboray said the state also is expected to test some of the soil and water around the school to try to determine the source of the PFAS contamination. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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