Library programs, events canceled

In an email dated Friday, March 13, South Portland Public Library announced that all library programs and events are canceled until further notice.

“We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will keep (the public) informed about the reinstating of our programs as soon as we are able<‘ said Heather MacNeill, teen librarian and publicity coordinator, in the press release.

Community colleges extend spring break

In order to best prepare for the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Maine’s seven community colleges are all extending their student breaks from one week to two weeks.

“This decision balances our commitment to creating the best possible learning environment for our students, keeping our communities healthy and safe and preparing to respond nimbly to what is clearly an evolving situation,” system President David Daigler said March 12. “We are working diligently to continue operating as close to normal as possible.”

System and campus leaders agreed on this course of action after careful review and discussion. The additional week will allow for more time to prepare to transition as many in-person courses as possible to new methods of instruction, should the need arise.

All of Maine’s community colleges are taking this same action on a staggered timetable, based upon their individual college calendars.

Three colleges – Southern Maine Community College, Kennebec Valley Community College and York County Community College – are currently on spring break this week, and will extend their student break through the week of March 16th. Central Maine Community College has its regular break the week of March 16th, and will extend it for students to include the week of March 23rd. Eastern Maine Community College, Northern Maine Community College and Washington County Community College have their usual break the week of March 30th and will extend the break for students to include the week of March 23rd.

“We aren’t yet in a position where we must move classes to an alternative form of learning, but we must be prepared to do so if it becomes necessary,” Daigler said.

The decision to extend the break in order for faculty and staff to prepare is based on the fact that the vast majority of community college students in Maine are Maine residents and commute to campus from their local area. The colleges are continually monitoring the virus spread within their area and consulting with public health officials. Based upon the factors as they currently exist, the colleges believe the prudent course of action is to continue normal operations as much as possible.

“This is a time of uncertainty, but we are focused on providing a safe and welcoming environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Daigler said.

The Maine Community College system has COVID-19 planning teams at the system and colleges that are constantly monitoring the situation. The highest priority of each of these teams is the health and safety of the college communities. Individual campus leaders are making decisions about campus events and gatherings, while broader actions are being coordinated system wide.

Any decision to close residence halls will be made in close consultation with public health experts. If a college is forced to close its residential facilities, it will work to provide students with compelling reasons for remaining on campus a place to stay through the end of the semester. Those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Regular updates are being posted on the MCCS COVID-19 information page.

Saco & Biddeford Savings donates to school lunch program

Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution announced it will donate $14,299.84 to school nutrition programs in York and Cumberland counties through its Community Debit Card Program. The funds raised will provide approximately 5,070 meals for students in Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook.

Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England, at 13.6 percent, and more than 45 percent of students in the state were eligible for free or reduced lunch during the 2019 fiscal year, according to the Maine Department of Education.

“No child should go without food and it is our honor to step up and help,” said Bob Quentin, president and CEO of Saco & Biddeford Savings. “The Community Debit Card Program has continued to build on the momentum of its first year and raise awareness about this important issue. This is only made possible through the participation of our partnering schools and the continued support of our customers.”

“The impact this donation has on our local families makes a tremendous difference,” said Caroline Trinder, food and nutrition services director of RSU 23. “This year’s donation helped eliminate the majority of our debt and we are grateful to the bank and their customers for making this possible.”

In two years, the program has produced nearly $25,000 in donations, which are primarily generated every time SBSI customers swipe their Community Debit Cards for a non-ATM transaction. The $14,299.84 raised from these transactions in 2019 is a significant uptick from $5,424.48 raised in 2018. In its inaugural year, the program led to SBSI receiving a FIS/Unisys FIRST Award – which came with a prize of $5,000 to benefit a community cause of their choice – bringing the 2018 donation total to $10,424.48.

To learn more about the Community Debit Card Program, visit https://www.sbsavings.bank/community-debit-cards.