RSU 85 board advised of student programs

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STRONG — The first two weeks of school have been packed with interesting challenges for Regional School Unit 58 staff and students, school directors were told Thursday evening.

Superintendent Susan Pratt told them about a program that provides high school students with the information and skills to continue education after high school.

“We celebrated National Gear UP Week,” Pratt said. “This is the fourth year of our Gear Up grant, and it brings $100,000 a year.”

The GEAR UP Maine program identifies and assists students and families from economically disadvantaged backgrounds – starting in seventh grade – to think about, prepare for, enroll in and successfully complete a post-secondary education. The program is supported by the University of Maine at Farmington and partner organizations that serve 65 schools and over 9,000 students each year. GEAR UP Maine is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Post-Secondary Education, from 2014 to 2021.

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Pratt also reported that the district received recognition for participation in the Healthy Community Coalition’s 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go! program. Students are eating lots of fresh vegetables at the salad bar in Strong and Kingfield Elementary Schools, and Phillips is planning to join the 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go! program.

Strong, Kingfield, Phillips and Mt. Abram High School principals, along with directors of athletics, special education and technology, reported progress in their first two weeks of the school year.

French teacher Francois Moretto and two students presented the board with a detailed slide show of their proposed trip to France in April 2018. Students must pay their expenses, have two years of French language study and be at least 16 years of age. At least 10 students have to register to go to make the two-week trip possible, he said.

The board approved Moretto’s request to continue the planning stages without making a final commitment.

Pratt presented a brief overview of last year’s testing scores, noting that staff and administration would review the schoolwide Maine Education Association data and make further recommendations. Test scores measure student skills in English, language arts, math and science.

“As a whole, I saw some improvement in the math scores,” Pratt noted. “We should be very proud of the science scores across the system.”

This is the second year the state has required this type of testing system, so with two years of data, she will be able to target areas of improvement.

The board also approved changing an early release day and teacher workshop date from Nov. 9 to Nov. 7.

The district has 655 students enrolled, according to Pratt. Elementary school enrollment is up, and high school enrollment is down, but figures change frequently.

“We had a large class leave and a smaller class come in (to Mt. Abram High School),” she said.

Approximately 25 percent of students eligible for RSU 58’s preschool clasess choose not to attend, but Pratt said her research shows that an average for other schools is closer to 50 percent.

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