Irish group Realta to perform in Calais

Just in time to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Calais Celtic Concerts will present the award-winning group from the Ulster city of Belfast Ireland, Realta, at the Calais High School this Sunday, March 8 at 6 p.m. U.S./ 7 p.m. Canadian time. The doors will open at 5 p.m.

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Out and About in Columbia

I had to make a trip to my eye doctor on Monday the 24th for my sixth-month checkup. That entailed a couple of eye scans and everything is okay for now. Just praying that it will continue to be alright.

Debra Burris joined me on Monday in Ellsworth. We did some browsing and picked up a couple of items while we were there. We had brunch at the Riverside Cafe before we returned home. It definitely was a good day out and about.

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Rep. Tuell’s First Responders Day signed into law

by Jayna Smith

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Gov. Mills signed into law LD 1908, An Act to Establish First Responders Day on September 11.  First Responders Day will recognize the daily contributions made by all first responders.  

Gov. Mills said, “First responders demonstrated remarkable courage and saved countless lives on September 11th.  It is only fitting that we pay tribute to their service and sacrifice in this way as we honor the anniversary of September 11th.”

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New Machias cell tower will host first responder network

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

A nationwide network proposed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will soon be operational Downeast.  

Last week, Rising Tide Towers completed the construction of a Machias cell tower which will provide first responder communications coverage via FirstNet, a network proposed by the federal 9/11 Commission and endorsed by Congress in 2012.

FirstNet Principal Consultant Bruce Fitzgerald said the network is designed to give communications from first responders “priority and preemption.”

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Machias selectboard talks police department move

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

The Machias Board of Selectmen last week took up the question of what to do with the telebusiness center, a semi-vacant property owned by the town.

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Runner-up Bulldogs ‘upbeat’ after loss, setting sights on next year

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

It wasn’t the outcome they’d hoped for, but coach Jim Getchell said the Machias Memorial High School boys’ varsity basketball team is looking ahead after losing the Class D state championship game in Augusta on Saturday, Feb. 29.

“They love to win, and everyone loves to win, but when you think about the fact that you’re second place in the whole state of Maine, a lot of teams would like to be there,” said Getchell.

Machias lost 69-53 to defending state champions Forest Hills High School, located in Jackman.

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Storm claims two Moosabec boats: fishermen, bridge crew raise them

by Nancy Beal

The storm that blew into Downeast Maine last Thursday brought enough southeast wind to cause two boats to founder near the Beals-Jonesport Co-op. Alan Crowley’s Amanda May filled and sank on the hook, while Preston Alley’s dragger, Bossy Lady, dragged her mooring onto the east side of the granite approach to the Beals-Jonesport bridge.

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3 brothers and the story that brought them together

by Ruth Leubecker

Few stories contain as much far-reaching emotion and interaction as the brothers Eaton of Lubec.

Richard Eaton, more well-known as Dickie, is 68. He taught school in Lubec for 16 years, then accounting and business management in Camden for many more years. Today he runs Eaton Enterprises and does income taxes at home in Lubec. However, he splits his time between Maine and California, living part-time in Lubec.

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Will fish farm propel $12M power line upgrade for Jonesport?

by Nancy Beal

In an unusual reversal in the practice of awarding grants, the town of Jonesport has been invited to apply for a $1,000,000 infrastructure grant. That was the word that Bill MacDonald, the new executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments (WCCOG) brought to Jonesport selectmen recently — first via email on the last day of January, then in person on Feb. 5.

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Coronavirus: schools, hospital prepare to respond

by Jayna Smith

Concerns about the new coronavirus outbreak have risen in the U.S., even more so since 21 U.S. deaths have been reported. Stocks have plummeted as the virus has disrupted logistics networks, driven down tourism and air traffic, and canceled major events across the globe. Prices of commodities like oil and industrial metals have also taken a major plunge. Because China is a major supplier of ingredients for medicines, if the epidemic persists, prescription drugs could face shortages, according to the World Health Organization.  

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New book details history of Steuben’s National Wildlife Refuge

Today, everyone is familiar with Bar Harbor’s success as a thriving community and popular tourist destination. Less well known is the fact that, in 1896, the Petit Manan Land Company tried to create the same kind of successful community across the bay in Steuben.

The company invested money into building roads, a clubhouse, casino, steamboat dock, icehouse, lumber shed, a boarding house and cottages. Over the next 60 years, plans were filed by numerous individuals and companies who tried unsuccessfully to sell the nearly 1,300 cottage lots and build hotels and other amenities.

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Memories from Cherryfield

by Wayne Smith

I would like to share with you some memories about the town of Cherryfield, a town that once was a logging town, a town that once had more than one store, a town that once had a fair with all the laughter and excitement like the Blue Hill Fair. Cherryfield also had stock car racing. Pull up a chair and let's go for a ride into some of my memories of Cherryfield.

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Richard Olivares to Coach WA Varsity Baseball

Washington Academy announces Assistant Head of School Richard Olivares will coach varsity baseball for the 2020 season. Mr. Olivares states, “My goals at Washington Academy are to put a baseball team on the field that will compete with integrity and be a team the school and its community are proud of. I encourage all Washington Academy students interested in playing baseball to sign up in the WA main office.”

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Wash. Co. Democrats vote with the state, mostly

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Though the Maine Department of the Secretary of State is still validating election results, it appears Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden won last week’s state primary with 34.3 percent of the statewide vote, narrowly edging out Bernie Sanders who received 32.8 percent. Both candidates took home nine Maine delegates, and both held the same positions with Downeast voters. Biden also won in Washington County — 1,054 votes to Sanders’ 851.

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One year after SJC ruling, enforcement issues plague rockweed industry

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Questions about enforcement of the Ross v. Acadian Seaplants' decision surround Maine’s rockweed industry, one year after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled rockweed is the exclusive property of Maine’s intertidal landowners.

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Bill grapples with drug law reform

by Ruth Leubecker

Medical experts and public health advocates convened last week to address upcoming legislation that would relax sentencing guidelines for those possessing drugs.

LD 1492, An Act to Reform Drug Sentencing Laws, seeks to require prosecutors to prove someone is trafficking or intends to traffick drugs before they can be convicted of it; and it would end some felony charges by raising the threshold for misdemeanor possession charges.

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A walk through Machias before statehood

by Valdine Atwood

Editor’s note: Follow along on this walk through historic Machias using the maps found on p. 21.

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Machiasport’s bicentennial fundraiser will support park, tricentennial forest

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

 

A day of fundraiser festivities planned for Saturday, March 21 will support Machiasport’s plans for several 2020-themed projects, including a park with walking paths, a tricentennial forest, and a playground, among other things. 

 

On Sunday, March 15, Maine will celebrate its bicentennial, having entered the union as the 23rd state in 1820.

 

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Washington County Coronavirus updates

The Machias Valley News Observer will be regularly updating this page with information relating to coronavirus in Washington County, including closures, cancellations, and postponements. If you have any updates to include here, please email them to editor@machiasnews.com.

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Machias couple emerges from self-quarantine after return from Italy

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

After 16 days in isolation, Ben and Allison Edwards were relieved to learn they tested negative for COVID-19. The couple, who manage Schoppee Farm in Machias, returned from a trip to Europe last month and were advised to self-quarantine for two weeks.

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Mills recommends indefinite classroom closures

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

On Maine’s 200th birthday, Sunday, March 15, Governor Janet Mills held a press conference to address the spread of COVID-19 in Maine and said she has declared a civil state of emergency to “unlock access to critical federal funds that will support [Maine’s] efforts.”

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Maine CDC announces 23 confirmed, 9 presumptive COVID-19 cases

During its daily update on Tuesday, March 17, Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the state now has 23 confirmed cases if the 2019 novel coronavirus, and nine presumptive positives, bringing the likely known total to 32. Maine discovered its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday, March 12.

Tests for 1,303 people have come back negative.

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Major hurdles block reform for disabled public employees

by Ruth Leubecker

Many of Maine’s public workers have waited years for earned disability compensation; meantime many exist on limited resources, often from friends and churches.

“It’s very, very sad. The system has totally let these people down,” says Jerry Conley, an attorney who has made such cases his specialty. “I’ve been doing these cases for 20 years. It’s awful, and has grown worse over the years.”

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Jonesport approves $670k, some elected offices

by Nancy Beal

Jonesporters held their annual town meeting March 9, electing the people who will run the town for the next fiscal year (July 2020 through June 2021) and authorizing the money to do it with. In addition to the usual expenditures, approximately 80 persons raised $20,000 as the town’s share of a $66,000 stream crossing grant to rebuild the little overpass on the Kelley Point Road near Route 187 where Stillman’s Creek empties into Sawyer’s Cove, making the total raised $669,398.

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UMM Clippers women’s basketball players receive national honors

The University of Maine at Machias Clippers women’s basketball team ended a strong season with a bid to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Basketball National Championship, where they competed against the Villa Maria College Vikings in the quarterfinals on March 9. They were ultimately defeated by the Vikings in a game that ended 69–51.

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Local doctors urge caution in ‘exponentially expanding epidemic’

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Local health care providers are modifying their practices to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19 in Washington County.

As of March 16, the Maine Centers for Disease Control reported 17 presumptive and positive cases in Maine, with none yet detected in Washington County.

Dr. David Rioux, of Machias, said he is “very concerned” about the outbreak, and that his practice is working on a plan to test for the virus without bringing potentially-ill patients into his medical office.

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East Machias canoe sled a work of art

Hunter Bishop, a 10-year-old who lives in East Machias and attends Elm Street School, recently collaborated with his dad to create a “sled” for a downhill race that was planned as part of the Winter Festival in Machias. Cardboard and duct tape were the approved materials, with design and decoration left up to the builders.  A photo of a canoe seen on a postcard at the Wabanaki Cultural Center in Calais was Hunter’s inspiration.

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Out and About in Columbia

by Ronie Strout

 

The Addison Town Meeting was held on Tuesday evening, March 10 at the D.W. Merritt Elementary School. Over 85 folks turned out for the meeting, with 83 voters registered to vote at the meeting.

The moderator for the evening was Chris Chartrand. Roberta Pinkham and Ronie Strout registered the voters for the night.

The Addison Town Meeting went well, with 26 articles voted on within 43 minutes. We elected one selectman, Joshua Stubbs, who won with 49 votes. Outgoing selectman Thomas Batson received 24.

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The ultimate lottery

by V. Paul Reynolds

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CDC reports 52 cases of COVID-19 in Maine, 0 in Washington County

The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces its daily findings on COVID-19 every day at noon via their website, https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/airborne/coronavirus.shtml.

Today's report announced 42 confirmed cases in Maine and 10 presumptive positive cases.

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Friday update: CDC announces 4 new COVID-19 cases, none yet confirmed in Wash. Co.

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

During a daily press conference held Friday, March 20, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Maine has 56 cases of confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19, a four-case increase over the day before and representing the smallest day-over-day increase this week.

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Saturday update: Maine COVID-19 cases climb to 70, none yet confirmed in Washington County

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

On Saturday, March 21, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its daily coronavirus case numbers, with a new addition to its chart. Today the CDC site lists 70 cases of confirmed positive COVID-19, a 14-case increase over the day before, and now three cases in the "recovered" column. 

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Sunday update: Maine COVID-19 cases climb to 89, CDC warns ‘no one should be waiting to prepare’ 

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Executive Director Dr. Niravh Shah today held a press conference to discuss coronavirus and announced 89 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine, a 19-case increase over the day before. Eight of those patients are hospitalized. Yesterday the CDC announced three patients have also recovered.

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Monday update: 107 cases, ‘Live your life as if you have the disease’

 

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Executive Director Dr. Niravh Shah today announced 107 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine, an 18-case increase over the day before. Twelve people are currently hospitalized for the virus.

Maine has conducted 2,791 negative tests.

For comparison, Shah said there were 89 positive cases across the United States on March 1, and today there are 35,000.

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Maine CDC: ‘No one should be waiting to prepare’

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

As of Monday, no cases of coronavirus have been detected within Washington County, a fact which should not stop people from preparing themselves, said Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Executive Director Dr. Nirav Shah.

"[A lack of cases] could provide folks with a false sense of security," he said.

Shah warned the CDC fully expects to see new cases develop in counties that have none today, and to see increasing rates of infection in counties with known cases.

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Geocaching, story trails, and scavenger hunts: local conservancy offers outdoor fun for ‘uncertain times’

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, a local land conservancy is spreading the word that schools, libraries, and restaurants may be closed, but nature is not.

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DEI’s ‘gold’ mussel could open national markets to Downeast aquaculture

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

You walk into an upscale eatery and order mussels dressed in garlic almond butter. A bowl of steamy shellfish comes to your table, but first, they could have come from anywhere in the world: Spain, New Zealand, Chile or, most likely, eastern Canada.

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PRSWDD’s fate on the bubble as Columbia decides to stay or leave; Jonesport, Columbia Falls question tonnage

by Nancy Beal

There has been no overt movement on the year-long attempt of Jonesport and Columbia Falls to leave the Pleasant River Solid Waste Disposal District (PRSWDD) in recent weeks. The arena has moved from the board room to behind the closed doors of lawyers hired by each side to represent their interests.

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DECH recognized for third year as standout in Donate Life

by Ruth Leubecker

“When I came here to work, Sue Dorr was the liaison for the New England Organ Bank,” says Donna Renshaw, operating room nurse at Down East Community Hospital. “Every death at the hospital needed to be reported to the organ bank.”

Twenty-five-plus years later, the organ bank is now New England Donor Services. Sue Dorr has long retired, Renshaw has assumed her role as liaison, and the Machias hospital has been recognized nationally as a topflight winner in promoting organ donation.

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Wild salmon seeding efforts rely on innovation, collaboration

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

It’s a cold winter morning, and three scientists are in a pickup truck, bouncing their way over miles of frozen blueberry barrens. They stop next to a shuttered cabin and prepare for work, donning insulated waders and hoisting backpacks. Once they’ve loaded their sled with gear they set off, carrying 30,000 eggs toward the Pleasant River.

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Machias talks PD move, CDBG grant

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Members of the Machias selectboard spoke with Machias Police Chief Todd Hand at their regular bi-monthly meeting held Wednesday, March 11. Hand walked the board through building modifications that would make the Machias Telebusiness Center into a suitable new police department.

Chairman Joshua Rolfe said the board is largely in favor of moving the police department into the more modern facility, located on Stackpole Road, but has not taken a formal vote on the matter.

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EAC’s Youth Art Exhibition to open online

Despite widespread COVID-19 closures, Eastport Arts Center’s Washington Street Gallery will nevertheless celebrate Youth Art Month with its 6th annual exhibition of young artists’ works. The art has been photographed by Robin Farrin, a frequent documenter of EAC events, and is being compiled as an online exhibition on the center’s site so that all can enjoy.

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Tuesday update: Maine active COVID-19 count climbs to 118

 

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention today announced active COVID-19 counts have risen to 118, and 11-case increase over the day prior. Seven people have recovered from the illness, making Maine’s total known cases 125 since it was first detected here on March 12.

 Cumberland County remains the most affected, with a total of 74 active cases, and five recoveries.

 No cases have yet been detected in Washington County, though experts say it is likely here.

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AC Inc. open for business, ‘It’s important to be here’

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Fourth-generation Beals business A.C. Inc. is open and will continue to operate in the coming weeks, according to owner Albert Carver. As a seafood buyer and wholesaler, A.C. Inc. is deemed an essential service and will continue operations during a two-week state mandate that shuttered non-essential retail establishments on March 24.

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Hanscom awarded bid for DCF demolition

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Representative Will Tuell (R-E. Machias) Sunday announced that Maine Department of Corrections has awarded a bid for demolition and abatement of the Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF) to local contractor Hanscom Construction.

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In changing times, East Machias selectboard broadcasts meeting online

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Video can be watched here: https://www.facebook.com/eastmachias/videos/747019195704104/

The East Machias Board of Selectmen held a meeting on Thursday, March 26 and streamed the proceeding so that residents could watch from a safe distance. The state has prohibited all gatherings of 10 or more people and strongly urged everyone to avoid non-essential gatherings of any size to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Without ICU, DECH prepares response to COVID-19

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Though no cases of COVID-19 have yet been detected in Washington County, Down East Community Hospital in Machias has implemented plans to respond.

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Help for fishermen affected by the pandemic

by Nancy Beal

Ordinarily around 6 a.m. this time of year, those living near the coast would begin to hear boat engines come to life, as lobstermen came out of their winter cocoons and began setting and hauling their traps. Not this spring.

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Machias scavenger hunt set to repeat April 4-5

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Ben Bunker said he came up with the idea for a driving scavenger hunt as a way to draw families out of their houses during this time of social distancing.
“I’ve got a little extra time, and I thought, ‘This won’t take much to put together, and it’s something good for the kids,’” said Bunker, sales manager at Whitney TriTown Marine in Machias.

He reached out to area businesses, and the response was overwhelming. More than 30 agreed to participate, so Bunker is repeating the event this coming weekend, April 4-5.

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‘Nimble’ agencies ramp to meet increasing needs Downeast

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

In February, Washington County reported the highest level of unemployment of any county in Maine, registering 7.7 percent and up from 6.4 percent in 2019, according to the Maine Department of Labor. That number does not include fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic which began to close area businesses in mid-March.

As the economic impacts of COVID-19 closures hit home, Community Caring Collaborative (CCC) Director Charley Martin-Berry said Washington County agencies are ramping to help people struggling every day to make ends meet.

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Area residents weigh in on mounting coronavirus crisis

by Ruth Leubecker

While Washington County remains free of confirmed cases of coronavirus, the average person appears to be realistically appraising the inevitable.

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400 acres around Vining Lake acquired by Downeast Coastal Conservancy

by Nancy Beal

Several hundred acres surrounding a prime brook trout habitat that is also a popular ice fishing lake in the town of Cooper will be preserved for the people of Washington County and beyond through the sale last month to the Downeast Coastal Conservancy (DCC), the Sunrise County’s foremost land trust headquartered in Machias. DCC took title to the acreage around Vining Lake on March 12 from a couple who wanted the area to remain undeveloped and available to the public in perpetuity for low-impact recreational use.

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Schools working overtime to provide learning, food, and normalcy — from a distance

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Teacher Caitlyn Roy reported to work on Friday, March 13 expecting a day of professional development workshops. Instead, she and her fellow teachers were told to prepare 15 days worth of lesson plans, and quickly.

“We still didn’t know if [a shutdown] was happening, or when,” said Roy, who together with Kelly Woodward teaches fifth grade at Rose M. Gaffney Elementary (RMG) in Machias. “We had to create lesson plans for math, but we didn’t know what the lessons would be about, so we had to make plans that were fill-in-the-blank.”

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