This is my Friday update for April 30, 2021. It seems hard to believe that we are at the end of April and that when will return to school next Monday we will be beginning the final stretch of the school year. I wanted to again remind folks that the last day of this school year is scheduled for Thursday, June 17 and that will be a half day.
One of the things that I know you have heard a lot from me about this year has been the ability that our district has had to offer a five-day a week, in-school learning option for all of our students from pre-k through high school. Across the state and indeed across the country, many school systems are only just now beginning to consider how providing that option next fall might be seen as a possibility for their students. We have been most fortunate in this regard and our students have responded enthusiastically to being able to return to the classroom after our shift to full remote learning last spring.
Even in meeting that challenge however, we were able to make therequired change with more confidence than many other school districtsbecause of the ongoing investment we had made in technology within the district and the training that our staff had taken advantage of over the years. As a result of that experience, however, we also realized that the ability for our students to be able to use their technology effectively was largely dependent on the quality of access that they had to the Internet from their homes. The pandemic helped us recognize that high speed Internet is not a luxury but rather a necessity for work, education and staying connected with family. Last spring and then again this year, we were able to provide Wi-Fi hotspots to students who had no Internet or under-powered Internet access at their homes. This was possible because of the initial support we received from the River Fund, which was later followed by a significant effort on the part of the Maine Department of Education to provide us with all of the devices we needed. Thanks to this support, we had the ability to get these hotspots out of our families within just the first few weeks of that experience.
We are now involved in helping to collect data from our families that will help the Maine Department of Education create a plan for bringing better Internet access to underserved regions in the area. We are also part of the Mahoosuc Broadband Committee, a community organization that is working on a detailed mapping and data gathering project to provide accurate information that can be used to pursue creative approaches and multiple funding sources to address ways to provide better access. More information about our efforts to support broadband in the region are available in the News section of the district website.
I apologize for the multiple messages that you received this week. I believe it is better to err on the side of providing you with as many updates as possible but understand that sometimes it can be a little overwhelming like the other day when I had to provide two back-to-back updates regarding changes to masking requirements at athletic events.
In any event, I wanted to thank you again for your ongoing support.
Best wishes for great weekend.
Dave Murphy, Ed.D.
MSAD 44 Superintendent of Schools