PARIS — Norway Savings Bank has committed $20,000 to ensure that elementary school students in Oxford Hills benefit from education beyond the classroom. The money is a donation to fund K-6 school field trips for the Maine School Administrative District 17’s eight elementary schools.

The donation came about as NSB’s community relations committee took measure of the number of assistance requests from teachers in SAD 17 and determined that the increasing trend defined a community need the bank could help with.

“We were getting funding requests from individual teachers (for field trips )since the beginning of the school year,” explained Melissa Rock, the bank’s vice president for marketing and communications. “We saw a pattern and thought we should talk with (the district) to do something a little more comprehensive so teachers don’t have to fundraise on their own so much.”

“A little more” ended up being a $20,000 donation, accepted by SAD 17’s school board on Jan. 17 and officially delivered to SAD 17 during a visit to Central Office Monday by NSB’s President Dan Walsh, Oxford Hills Vice President and Market Manager Mike Grass, Vice President and Community Reinvestment Act Officer Janice de Lima and Rock.

Norway Savings Bank has donated $20,000 to Maine School Administrative District 17 to help fund elementary school trips. Pictured from left: NSB President and CEO Dan Walsh, SAD 17 Superintendent Heather Manchester and Curriculum Director Jill Bartash, NSB Vice President and Community Reinvestment Act Officer Janice de Lima and NSB Vice President and Oxford Hills Market Manager Mike Grass.

School field trips, excluded from SAD 17’s annual budget for more than a decade, took another hit during the pandemic when school closings and public health mandates made it impossible for students to enjoy any experiential learning away from their buildings and grounds.

“It’s been a pretty tricky three years for the school district,” SAD 17’s Superintendent Heather Manchester said during the bank’s visit to her office. “Learning has been disrupted. We really want to get our kids out into the community, seeing and experiencing things. One of the values of our district is to engage students in their learning.


“So much of our field trips are based on the teachers taking their time to research, fundraise and implement them. Viking FUNds will help us take weight off our teachers’ shoulders and make it possible for them to focus more on the learning to take place. And it will also make it more equitable among our elementary schools.”

Manchester noted that coordinating experiential education has become even more challenging for newly hired teachers who are unfamiliar with local resources that traditionally support field trips. “This is going to take work off their plates so they can do better for students.”

SAD 17 Curriculum Director Jill Bartash discusses a $20,000 donation from Norway Savings Bank to help fund elementary school field trips. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Curriculum Director Jill Bartash has convened a committee to oversee disbursement of field trip funds. Committee members include elementary school principals Jamey Martin from Hebron Station School, Cathy Bickerford from Agnes Gray Elementary School and Jessika Sheldrick from Otisfield Community School; educators Samantha Geer and Sara Estes; and parents Meredith Cook and Elizabeth Stevens.

“Teachers will make requests to the committee,” Bartash said. “They’ll tell us where they want to go or what they plan to do and we will make it happen with this money.

“Some ideas are to bring experiences to the school also, which is easier than boarding a bus and sending it out there. We’re looking at theater, mad science experiences. It might bring someone like Mr. Drew and his Animals too to a classroom. Teachers may request that their class’ share of Viking FUNds be put towards overnight trips, like those at Bryant Pond or a day trip to the Maine Wildlife Park.”

Bartash said that in addition to reviewing teacher requests the committee is also aggregating a list with hyperlinks of potential sites and education goals so that educators have an easier time researching what will go best with their curriculum.


“This is the bank’s hometown,” de Lima said. “We have a lot of employees who were educated in Oxford Hills. We are always looking for way to reinvest back into the community. We decided to reach out to the schools to understand the process. This is the kick-off, and we will spend some time after school is out to see how it goes, did we have an impact, was it the right approach, and how should we go forward in future years.”

De Lima said part of the inspiration for the project came from talking with Oxford Hills alumnus and SAD 17 school board’s Vice Chair Jared Cash of Norway.

“Jared said he went on a field trip to Montreal, either fifth or seventh grade,” de Lima recalled. “He said it was the first time he saw a city outside of Norway, Maine. He came back so awestruck and it helped understand there was a world outside his little hometown. His teacher’s comment to the class was ‘people go where they know,’ and it was eye-opening to see a city like Montreal, which was so different.

“That was such a great metaphor for what we’re trying to do here now for the children.”



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