Superintendent Chris Downing recently offered updates on several Regional School Unit 20 projects, including mold remediation at Stockton Springs Elementary School and cleanup of an oil spill last month at Searsport District Middle/High School.

"We, as a school district, want to get moving on this," Downing said of mold removal at the vacant school in Stockton.

Addressing the RSU directors at their meeting Jan. 22, he said the district received three bids and directors needed to approve an industrial hygienist to formulate a plan for mold remediation.

Air Quality Management Services of Lewiston was hired initially by the district's insurance company to assess the mold situation. That company submitted the lowest of the three bids, and the board decided, by a vote of 2 to 1, to give Air Quality Management the job.

According to Downing, the company put in a low bid because it has done quite a bit of preliminary work on the project already.

The school has been empty since 2017 as RSU 20 directors have contemplated its future. Last month, the district opened talks with Stockton Springs and Searsport town officials about taking ownership of the building, but progress halted with the discovery of mold.

Oil spill cleanup

At Searsport District Middle/High School on Dec. 14, 2018, a mechanical problem spilled hundreds of gallons oil, Downing reminded the directors.

"The Department of Environmental Protection was with us from the beginning," he said. "Once we called the DEP, we followed their guidelines involving folks from the Coast Guard, the folks in town — the fire and police departments."

A flow switch, which got stuck after 16 years, caused the spill, Downing said.

"GafTek, the company that works on our boilers, came in and replaced it. It's just something that mechanically went wrong," he told directors.

Downing acknowledged Building, Grounds and Transportation Director Russ Flagg's commitment and the hours of work he devoted to the cleanup effort.

"I want you to know how hard that man worked to keep everything in line," Downing said.

Flagg said the maximum amount of oil that spilled was 1,110 gallons, or perhaps even as few as 1,000. A DEP spokesperson told Flagg approximately 80 percent of the oil spilled was collected and said Clean Harbors workers felt they vacuumed up approximately 900 gallons of oil.

"It's not my first oil spill," Flagg said.

Amy Hafford, third-grade teacher at Searsport Elementary School, reported on progress in this year's WinterKids Winter Games challenge. The statewide outdoor health and fitness challenge is underway for the month of January, and Searsport students are participating.

The competition promotes health and fitness and was in its third week. Searsport Elementary is up against 31 other Maine schools this year, Hafford said. Last year the school earned sixth place in a pack of 15 schools.

The first week students focused on physical activities of all kinds and hosted many outside presenters, including Camp Kieve and Belfast Watershed Coalition. Week two was all about nutrition, and students made healthy snacks. The third week focused on family, with several outside activities planned.

Third-grade student Eric Graebert read a paper he prepared about physical benefits of his favorite sports — basketball and soccer.

"Mr. Graebert is looking to get extra points for our class by getting a picture with the school board members," Hafford said. "I know it's a competition, but we've been having a lot of fun introducing literacy and activity and health into our curriculum at school," she added.

In other business, Downing announced bus driver Myron Hersom was retiring at the end of the year after 46 years with the district.