Air conditioning installed at the Guy E. Rowe School in Norway last year made it possible to keep school in session when the thermometer hit the 90s this week. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

PARIS — Pandemic restrictions may be easing in Oxford Hills, but 90 degree heat forced the closure of several elementary schools in SAD 17, Agnes Gray Elementary in West Paris, Oxford Elementary, Harrison Elementary and Waterford Memorial, Superintendent Rick Colpitts told school board members at their meeting Monday night.

“Today we had an early release due to the heat,” Colpitts said during his administrative update. “We have four schools in particular that are older, with poor insulation and multiples stories that tend to get unbearably hot. In the past Rowe would have been included in that group, but the board wisely installed air conditioning a year ago. Paris, Otisfield and Hebron remained open, those schools manage hot weather better.

“But tomorrow we’ll have to throw the towel in for all schools without air conditioning around noon tomorrow. All schools will have (early) release but Rowe, Paris and the middle and high schools.”

Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Principal Ted Moccia echoed the impact of the heat. Monday morning OHCHS held its Senior Assembly at Gouin Field.

“I think it was the hottest day of my life, in a suit, on a stage,” Moccia reported. “It was about 97 or 98 degrees with all the kids in their caps and gowns. Everybody made it through.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for good weather Wednesday night, when we will have Class Night, also at Gouin. And graduation will be Sunday night.”

Colpitts also told the board that he and incoming Superintendent Monica Henson will take a tour of schools Tuesday morning to introduce her to the SAD 17 community. On Wednesday she will spend time meeting with school principals and other administrators in the district.

Colpitts announced that going forward the district will be able to return to full in-person education. He said 93% of staff are fully vaccinated and that 287 students over the age of 12 have been as well. Last week 150 parents were surveyed on whether they would allow their children to participate in pool testing. According to the Maine Center for Disease and Maine Department of Education, if 30% of students and staff agree to participate in the process (at no district cost) schools may be exempted from some social distancing restrictions next fall.

Of the parents surveyed, 45% indicated their children could participate; 40% said no; and 15% were unsure. Colpitts said that 70% of staff would be willing to. Administrators will provide more information to parents over the next few weeks about the process. He also said that the federal Center for Disease Control hopes to be able to authorize vaccinations for children under 12 by next fall.

The board then voted to enter executive session to enter negotiations with Oxford Hills Education Association for a unit of education technicians II and III; the contract was ratified. Then the board entered executive session to discuss amending the incoming superintendent’s employment contract.

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