AUBURN — The number of sick students in two Auburn elementary schools
is down significantly, and H1N1 flu vaccine clinics have been held in
all schools, Assistant Superintendent Katy Grondin said Wednesday
night.

“We successfully vaccinated 1,051 (elementary) students,” she said. “That is excellent; it’s more than a third.” 

Grondin said 220 students at the middle school and 319 at the high school were vaccinated. Some 250 students were
absent when their schools held clinics. Those students will be offered
the H1N1 vaccine during the second week of December when younger
students are given booster shots.

On Tuesday, the percentage of students out sick was 10 percent at
Park Avenue Elementary, compared to 23 percent on Nov. 10 when the number of sick
students spiked. At East Auburn Elementary on Tuesday, about 6 percent of students were out, compared to 20 percent on Nov. 10.

Because the H1N1 flu is widespread across Maine, any school with
an absentee rate of 15 percent or more must report to the Maine
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week the two schools
had to give daily reports to the CDC. This week they do not. No Auburn
school has to report, according to the numbers.

Grondin publicly thanked school nurse Paula Curtis Everett and
parent volunteer Cynthia Brown for their work at the school clinics.
Committee members gave Everett and Brown, who were in the audience, a
round of applause.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of Maine CDC, said on Nov. 11 that by the
end of this week, 95 percent of Maine schools would have offered the
vaccine to students. School nurses “are really the heroes,” Mills said.

Learning through ‘Blabberize’

In other business Wednesday night, one Auburn Middle School teacher
showed how he’s getting more students to pay attention in class:
technology.

Using a Smart Board, teacher Brandon Ward, 27, resembled CNN’s
political reporter John King on election night, touching a screen and
bringing up a large graphic.

Ward showed how students, using their laptops and a site called
Glogster (http://www.glogster.com), have created interactive “poster boards”
to do reports on Spanish-speaking countries.

The electronic poster boards include snappy graphics, videos that
students download or make showing customs and cultures of foreign
countries, such as food and dance.

Ward showed off another tool, called Blabberize
(http://blabberize.com) in which students can download pictures, create an
electronic mouth and record their voices speaking Spanish. Students then
push a button and hear themselves speaking Spanish while the animated
mouth moves to their voices.

“This is fantastic,” Ward told the School Committee. “Students
are always paying attention.” They play their Spanish recordings over
and over. Using technology to write, read, create and learn “is a lot cooler” than old ways, he said.

Students are so engaged that some complete their work, then go back and perfect it “because they’re thinking about it,” Ward said.

From a teacher’s point of view, it’s less paperwork and easier to
keep track of students’ work and grades. “I have more free time,” Ward
said with a smile.

Teachers like Ward who are leaders in teaching with technology will
help other teachers learn new ways of teaching, the School Committee
was told.

Tough budgets ahead

As the tough economy continues and state tax revenue is not coming
in as projected, Auburn Superintendent Tom Morrill that Friday the
state will issue numbers on how much school budgets will be cut this
year.

Auburn’s projected cut is $645,000 of a $34.1 million
budget. “We’ll make it,” Morrill said.

What he’s worried about, Morrill said, is that this won’t be the only
budget hit. There has been talk about more serious, deeper cuts next year, and
the year after.

“These are extremely trying times,” he said.

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