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Changes on horizon as Falmouth schools approach new year

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Changes on horizon as Falmouth schools approach new year

FALMOUTH – The impact the H1N1 flu virus will have on school attendance and learning is a major unknown as teachers, staff, administrators and students gear up for a new school year.

The school nurses attended a seminar on the virus up in Augusta last week, along with Doug Patey, who is the town's assistant fire chief and director of emergency management.

"The Falmouth school nurses are phenomenal," Patey said. "They have great enthusiasm; we're a team, working together. They are prepared and ready to go."

Though he's waiting to hear more details from the Maine Center for Disease Control, Patey said most likely in October the schools will be supplied with doses of the H1N1 vaccine to administer to students in an in-school clinic. The vaccine requires two shots, given between three and four weeks apart. Students fall within the highest priority for the vaccine, in part because they spend so much time in close proximity with
others.

Patey stressed it's important to get a seasonal flu vaccine, too.

People can obtain the latest information, he said, by checking the Maine CDC's H1N1 Web site, maineflu.gov, weekly on Wednesday afternoons.

Advice for dealing with the flu remains the same: wash hands frequently, cough into your sleeve and not your hands and stay home if you are sick and have a fever. Patey said a sick student will be required to stay home for 24 hours after the fever subsides.

The first day of school for grades one through nine is Wednesday, Sept. 2, while kindergartners and grades 10, 11 and 12 start the following day. Meet-and-greet gatherings and special first-time bus rides for kindergartners will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 1, Superintendent Barbara Powers said.

For the first time, all kindergartners will be on a 2 1/2-day schedule, giving them extra hours of instruction while reducing transportation costs, Powers said.

Other changes are on the horizon, too. The Maine State Board of Education just gave the town the go-ahead for a new elementary school, allowing the project to go out to bid, Powers said.

Work has begun on construction of the wood boiler in back of the high school and on the tennis courts across the street, she said. Contrary to the concerns of some parents and students, the football field will remain open this fall and no construction will disrupt fall sports, she said.

Powers said she does expect some parking limitations behind the high school and occasional traffic flow problems around the middle school.

"We hope to start construction on the new school this fall," she said. "And our owner's representative will be in touch with each school principal about any anticipated noise."

A new Web site about all construction issues will be set up on the Falmouth schools' home page, falmouthschools.org, she said.

The entire curriculum will also be available online, completing a five-year review of curriculum areas. The roll-out will take place at the Sept. 21 School Board meeting, Powers said. One new addition this year is a tutoring center.

Powers said 11 new teachers, fewer than usual, were hired this year, with several of them being temporary positions of a year or a partial year to cover maternity leaves. The school year has been shortened by two days to give teachers 14 hours for staff development outside of school. They will be divided into 40 small groups and study questions facilitated by other teachers who attended a teacher leader and development course designed by Ken Murphy, Powers said.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.