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Frenchville school officials agree on temporary education plan for students

A fire last Sunday burned Dr. Levesque Elementary School. Superintendent Sirois says even though the school is gone, every student will start learning on Sept. 9

FRENCHVILLE, Maine — A few days after a massive fire burned the Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville, MSAD #33 school officials and school board members have been meeting throughout the week to decide the fate of the students' education this upcoming school year.

Most of the school is now in ashes, and officials have determined that even though a part of the school is partially standing, the entire school is a total loss.

"We met with the MSAD 33 school board last night, shared a plan with them entailing where we would like to educate the students of the district this year," Sirois said.

Superintendent Benjamin Sirois said the school board accepted the plan unanimously, along with public support.

The short-term solution for the displaced classrooms includes occupying a kid-friendly room at the Technical Center and using an empty wing of the Middle/High school in St. Agatha, Frenchville's neighboring town but within the same school department.

"One of our goals was to keep the children in the communities of Frenchville and Saint Agatha, and we've done that by essentially we are going to be moving our pre-K and kindergarten students into the Technology Center, they have an early childhood classroom there that is used for playgroups that are already developed for early childhood," Sirois said.

Sirois said they are looking for a modular classroom to also attach to that room they will use at the Technology Center.

First through sixth graders will be having classes in the middle/high school in St. Agatha at a wing of the school that does not have any middle or high schoolers.

"We are displacing some middle and high school teachers that graciously have agreed to go to another area of the school, and some of the other rooms were used for alternate things like a food pantry or athletic storage," Sirois added.

He said he has secured six classrooms, one for each of the grades first through sixth. 

Sirois said the Department of Education will support the school all along the way, and will also assist with long-term plans but right now school officials are focusing on the insurance portion.

"It's a lot of moving parts. It involves field-adjusters, desk-adjusters, cause, and origin people, and so there is a lot of things going on. Today I met with a cause and origin representative to try and get an idea of what the loss was and possible causes, the school is a total loss," Sirois said.

"Commissioner Makin was in direct contact with school leadership early on Sunday to offer support and determine needs, and our team at DOE has been doing outreach on behalf of the school to seek options for spacing, materials and additional support," Kelli Deveaux, director of communications for the Maine Department of Education. 

Sirois said school board members spoke in the meeting about wanting a Frenchville school in the future, but right now the top priority is making sure students start learning on time.

"We are thrilled to share that, in the true spirit of Maine people, many other school districts, educators, and community members from across the state have reached out to Frenchville and to DOE to offer whatever support or materials they can, and we will continue to coordinate with the point people for Dr. Levesque Elementary School to help them through this," Deveaux said.

Credit: Paul Cyr

Sirois said if anyone is interested in donating any school supplies or money to help support Frenchville teachers with getting some supplies for the students, you can call the school department at 207-834-3189.

"If anyone is looking to donate they should contact our office directly," Sirois said.