MECHANIC FALLS – Efforts to conserve energy paid off, Union 29 Director of Operations Gordon Murray told the School Committee on Tuesday night.

Last fall when fuel prices skyrocketed, Murray urged examination of all means to reduce energy use. With the end of the school year in sight, Murray predicted that heating fuel and propane budgets will break even or maybe show a small surplus.

Similarly, Murray said he expects costs for transportation fuels to stay comfortably within budget.

“I am thankful for the very warm weather and would also give credit to the school staff for the extra effort taken to conserve energy in a difficult year,” said Murray.

Murray noted that Transportation Director Mike Downing diligently adjusted bus routes to keep the mileage down and tuned engines to keep gas mileage rates up.

Principal Mary Martin, he said, kept a lid on extra bus runs and, lacking a centralized control system, Gary Purington and the custodial staff turned thermostats to 68 degrees daytime and lower at night.

“Really, mostly just a bunch of small things added up,” Murray said.

On the negative side, Murray figured electricity will run about $6,000 over budget, mostly because a rate increase was larger than he had estimated.

Murray said work scheduled for summer school vacation is in order: He has signed a proposal with Morrissey Environmental to remove asbestos from the “A” wing and Purington has begun purchasing materials for the replacement of the solar roof. Preliminary work on the solar roof will begin next week during April vacation.

Martin said expansion of the Maine Education Assessment tests from grades four and eight to grades three, four, five, six, seven and eight was stressful for students, teachers and administration.

“We were very glad to have UPS pick up our 10 cartons of MEA materials the last week of March,” Martin said.

Special Education Director Barbara Hasenfus reported that the move to have all high school juniors take the SAT tests went extremely well at Poland Regional High School.

She noted that the students took participation in the test quite seriously – to the point where, when two of the juniors heard a classmate wasn’t going to make it for the test, they went after their friend.

“As a result, we had a 100 percent turnout, which I think is pretty incredible,” said Hasenfus.