Houlton, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins visited Houlton High School to meet with school officials to discuss how they are preparing to safely reopen for in-person classes this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Collins also toured the high school.
Those in attendance included Superintendent Ellen Halliday and Houlton Middle-High School Principal Tim Tweedie.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and staff at Houlton High School and throughout Maine have remained dedicated to ensuring that students have the tools and resources they need to achieve their educational goals,” said Senator Collins. “During my visit today, I had a productive discussion about the steps RSU 29 is taking to keep their school community safe. We also spoke about ways we can work together to help close the digital divide that many students in rural communities face.”
“Public schools are preparing to welcome students back to school this fall by procuring adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, reconfiguring classroom spaces, installing Plexiglas shields, and modifying bus routes. As some students may be turning to remote learning, rural schools are focusing on providing adequate Internet access for their students,” Senator Collins continued. “Congress needs to provide additional funds to help school districts implement these changes to facilitate learning and to protect students, teachers, staff, custodians, food service, and other employees.”
Last week, Senator Collins joined Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) in introducing the ACCESS the Internet Act, which would authorize $2 billion to support distance learning and telehealth initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Senators Collins and Manchin introduced the Hotspots and Online Technology and Services Procurement for our Tribes and States (HOTSPOTS) Act, which would create a two-year hotspot pilot program to help libraries in low-income and rural areas purchase and distribute Internet-connected devices in their communities. This provision is included in the ACCESS the Internet Act.
RSU 29 serves the towns of Houlton, Hammond, Littleton, and Monticello.
Senator Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Education Committee, has secured millions of dollars for Maine’s public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and is working to ensure that schools and communities throughout our state have the resources they need to safely reopen.
At a hearing in June, Senator Collins questioned Dr. Anthony Fauci about a new method to more efficiently test large groups of people for COVID-19. This cost-effective strategy, known as pool testing, can be used in settings such as schools to detect the presence of the virus. At a separate hearing, Senator Collins, questioned college presidents and a public health expert about their work to help students, faculty, and staff safely return to campus this fall.
In May, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act. The SMART Act would provide emergency funding to every state, county, and community in the country to help offset costs and revenue shortfalls—including those for schools—as a result of COVID-19. Maine would receive at least $2 billion through this legislation.
Earlier this year, Senator Collins announced that Maine was awarded nearly $44 million through the CARES Act to support K-12 students. Additionally, she announced that Maine received a $9.2 million block grant to support K-12 and postsecondary education in the state.