Friday, October 30, 2020

RSU 14 ensures students receive school meals while learning remotely

By Ed Pierce

RSU 14 Director of School Nutrition Jeanne
Reilly, left, visits with Mobile Meals Van drivers
Ashley Genovese and Phil Herbert following
distribution of take-home student meals at
Manchester School in Windham on Tuesday
morning. The free breakfast and lunch meals
are intended to see that RSU 14 students do
not go hungry on virtual learning days.

Thanks to a generous new program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and using a new Mobile Meals Van, RSU 14 is stepping up to see that every student in the district does not go hungry.

With many families in Raymond and Windham struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, over the summer RSU 14 administrators pondered how to best meet nutritional needs for children who were not able to be physically attend school because of the virus. Without burdening the district’s transportation department already at capacity because of newly imposed CDC social distancing requirements, the RSU purchased a van to be operated for transporting school meals to convenient pick-up locations for students to consume at home.

“We started utilizing our Mobile Meals Van on the first day of school on Sept. 9,” said Jeanne Reilly, RSU 14 Director of School Nutrition. “With school operating on a hybrid schedule, and children learning from home at least three days per week, we were very concerned about meeting the nutritional needs of students on their virtual learning days. We developed a plan to make meals more accessible to students on those days. At the time, USDA, which funds our program, had extended COVID-related waivers, allowing us to offer meals to all children at no cost until the end of December.”

Since then, Reilly said that Congress issued additional funding and gave the USDA permission to extend the waivers until the end of the 2020-2021 school year meaning that for the remainder of the school year, all school meals will be available to all children in RSU 14 free of charge.

The Mobile Meals Van serves anywhere from 300 to 500 meals from the van each day, and on Fridays the program also offers families the opportunity to pick up weekend meals, which Reilly said is also
allowable because of COVID-19 related waivers.   

“On the days that we are serving weekend meals, we are serving over 1,500 meals,” Reilly said. “We are using the van every school day.  We begin our Mobile Meals route at 10:30 a.m. in Windham and end at 12:35 p.m. in Raymond.  We are considering extending our time, as some of our stops are very busy.”

The RSU 14 meals consist of breakfast and lunch and are delivered at five different locations including Stadium Drive from 10:30 to 10:45 a.m.; Joyful Noise Daycare from 10:55 to 11:15 a.m.; the Manchester School Parking Lot from 11:20 to 11:35 a.m.; the Raymond Elementary School Parking Lot from noon to 12:15 p.m.; and the Creative Kids Daycare Parking Lot from 12:20 to 12:35 p.m.

“Mostly we are offering cold menu items, such as sandwiches, salad, bento box style lunches that can be consumed cold without re-heating,” Reilly said. “For students in middle and high school, we do include some items that need to be reheated such as macaroni & cheese, chili, and pizza.  The younger children, however, are often eating these meals in a daycare setting, where heating the meals up might be problematic.

Weekend meals tend to be bulk foods and also includes food that may need to be assembled or re-heated at home.” 

Reilly said two people drive the van’s route and serve the meals which are prepared by RSU 14 kitchen staff and packaged to be eaten at home. Currently, all students through the age of 18 can eat for free, even those children who are not yet in school and children who are homeschooled.

“We do ask that meals be ordered through our Nutrislice APP or through the Nutrislice Program,” Reilly said. “This helps us to plan accordingly and helps us to ensure that we have enough meals.   Pre-ordering also helps us manage over-production and waste.”

Meals can be ordered by downloading the free Nutrislice App or by visiting

"A parent or guardian can create an account and add each child to their account, using their school student ID, or in lieu of a student ID they can use a phone number or birthday or other number,” Reilly said. “Meals can be ordered up to 30 days in advance and need to be ordered by 9 p.m. the night before the date of delivery.” 

She said that the content of the meals will change periodically or by the season.

“For the first six weeks, we only varied our menu slightly, but moving into November and December, we have planned a few changes and updates,” Reilly said.

Funding for the Mobile Meals is derived from a USDA program initiated earlier this year to ensure that all students receive a nutritious meal, twice a day, throughout the school week.

“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive
safe, healthy and nutritious food,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue who emphasized that students across America need to have access to food as childhood hunger rates have increased as a result of the pandemic. “
We are grateful for the heroic efforts by our school food service professionals who are consistently serving healthy meals to kids during these trying times, and we know they need maximum flexibility right now.”

Christopher Howell, RSU 14 superintendent, said the Mobil Meals Van is another example of how the district has adapted to life during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pandemic has impacted the way that we run our schools in RSU 14.  In addition to the six brick and mortar schools in our district, we are currently running a seventh virtual school for 440 students,” he said.  “As instruction has adapted to this model, so has the school nutrition program.  Each and every day our school nutrition staff serves delicious and healthy meals to all of our in-person learners, hybrid home learners, and the remote students at home.”

Howell said everyone associated with RSU 14 can take pride in programs that serve students such as
the Mobile Meals Van.

“I am proud of all of the work that our school nutrition staff have completed as they have overcome the logistical challenges of feeding breakfast and lunch to in-person and remote students,” Howell said. “The work that they do each day helps to maintain the connection between our distance learners and their schools.”

Reilly said that the best aspect of the program is the RSU has been able to feed children healthy breakfast and lunches whether or not they are in school at no cost to the families.

“The feedback we have received has been overwhelming,” Reilly said. “Families are so grateful.”

She said the program also helps children in other ways during the pandemic.

“Even without the need, a school meal gives students familiarity and has restored some normalcy to their lives when they’re not in school,” Reilly said. 

There are challenges in operating a mobile school meals program and most of that centers on managing waste either when families may order meals and then because of circumstances not pick them up.

“That’s why we have to make sure we are preparing the right amount of food for the program,” Reilly said. “I also worry about getting meals to families who are without transportation or have other issues. We’re going to keep doing this through the end of June.” <   

School cleaning protocols in place to protect students

Ron Molina, head custodian at Windham Primary
School, cleans door handles at the school on
Wednesday morning. Across RSU 14 in Windham
and Raymond, custodial staffs are busy cleaning
surfaces, classrooms, bathrooms and common
school areas used by students and teachers
throughout the day to meet CDC requirements
during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Elizabeth Richards

Strong cleaning policies for RSU 14 facilities are giving the district a head start in keeping schools clean and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Hansen, Director of Facilities, Property Services and Special Projects, said that for the past few years, the district has worked hard with custodial supply vendors to continually update and improve cleaning processes and procedures.  This included reviewing chemicals used, switching to all microfiber cleaning, and installing hand sanitizer in the classrooms.

As a result, the district was already well prepared to manage the cleaning and sanitizing protocols required to safely reopen.

“When the pandemic started, the cleaning processes in place were already appropriate,” Hansen said. “The changes that have been made focus on increasing our ability to serve the building while students are present.  This includes adding additional custodial staffing during the day, adjusting custodial hours to support the cleaning between student days, and for the time being restricting school use to educational purposes only so the evening custodial staff can focus solely on cleaning and not event set up or public use of the spaces.”

Specific protocols for cleaning and disinfecting during the pandemic are outlined in the 2020-2021 School Reopening plan, which is available on the home page of the RSU 14 website (, said Assistant Superintendent Christine Frost-Bertinet.

These guidelines include a long list of specific items throughout the school that must be disinfected and additional guidance around the use of tools and travel for maintenance employees. In addition to the
COVID-19 guidelines, custodial and maintenance employees must follow documented standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting.

Other measures have also been taken to promote good health in the schools.  As recommended by the CDC, Hansen said, RSU 14 converted most of the sink faucets in the district to hands free operation, allowing students and staff to wash without needing to touch the fixtures.

The district has also created outdoor classroom spaces for students, allowing for more social distancing, mask breaks, and fresh air.

“These spaces have been a hit with the students and have been used regularly,” Hansen said.  Large outdoor picnic tables were purchased for students to work at in these outdoor spaces, Hansen said.

“Going forward the RSU has plans to create several outside teaching space structures with roofs to allow expanded use of the outdoor environment for teaching and learning,” he said.

The district has also been focused on improving building air filtration and increasing the amount of fresh air into the spaces as recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) as a response to COVID, Hansen said.

“This increased air flow and filtration provides an improved indoor environment and the additional outside air also results in more air changes per hour resulting in more fresh outside air in the educational spaces,” he said.

Other upgrade projects are underway that will provide long term ventilation improvements, enhanced filtration, increased outside air flow and building controls upgrades designed to provide improved indoor environments, Hansen said. 

Inspections and preventative maintenance procedures have also been completed on the air handling and exhaust air systems to be sure they are operating efficiently and as designed.

Frost-Bertinet said that the transition back to school for staff and students has gone very well overall. 

“Students and their families have been following the expected health and safety protocols, they have     
transitioned smoothly to the new and unusual schedule and have demonstrated remarkable resilience in light of everything they are facing. We are incredibly proud of our students and grateful to our families for their continued support and flexibility,” she said.

The pandemic presents challenges for all involved: staff, students and families.

“Our staff has done an exemplary job of stepping up to the challenges we are all facing. They have kept students and families at the forefront of their thinking and worked incredibly hard to adjust to the myriad of changes in response to COVID-19,” Frost-Bertinet said.

Hansen agreed.

“Staying the course with mask use, hand washing, social distancing and staying home when not feeling well will be most important,” said Hansen. “The departure from our normal to this new state is a continued stressor for all and as a district we will continue to work to find ways to continue to provide the supports and assistance needed. This challenge is not likely to go away anytime soon and working together we can continue to be successful and deliver success for all.” <

Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat’ a bloodcurdling sensation in Windham

The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce,
which co-hosted Saturday's 'Drive-Thru Trunk or
Treat' event with Windham Parks and Recreation,
crafted an equally unique and spooky trunk.
By Ed Pierce

In a year unlike any other, children unable to go trick or treating during the pandemic found their Halloween spirit and a bit of ghastly fright during Windham’s Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat” held Oct. 24 at the Windham Mall behind the North Windham Hannaford.

Hosted by Windham Parks and Recreation and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the spooktacular “Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat” event drew about 80 pre-registered families and 160 children in eighth grade and below. As each family slowly drove past 18 different and ghoulish trunk hosts, the children received pre-packaged candy and goodies.

According to Sarah Davenport, Windham Parks and Recreation’s Youth and Family Programs Coordinator, the event remained popular in spite social distancing and families having to remain their vehicles because of CDC pandemic restrictions.

“We did have to turn away a few families, as we had already maximized our capacity in order to allow as many families as possible to pre-register,” Davenport said. “We also received very positive feedback from the public, particularly from folks who appreciated the attention to details in planning and observing the CDC precautions in order to host such an event. We look forward to next year with the hope that we will be able to welcome more families and expand on a great Halloween tradition.”

Davenport said all of the trunks were terrific and eerily decorated, but the first-place winners as chosen by volunteer judges were a Haunted House trunk complete with actual haunters, a Haunted Summer Camp with a detailed activity schedule, and Mainely Ticks with a wide variety of Halloween decorations. She said that other favorites included an “It” themed trunk with Pennywise the clown, a carnival trunk, dancing inflatable unicorns and giraffes, and an “RIP sports season” trunk.

“We were very thankful to be able to partner with the Windham Mall in order to host this event and
from our perspective this was an ideal location,” Davenport said. “The trunks had adequate space to decorate and maintain appropriate distance, and the flow of traffic worked very well in this setting. The Windham Mall was a terrific host, offering us plenty of support to make this event successful.”

Linda J. Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation Department director, said that Windham has hosted “Trunk or Treat” every year since 2017.

“We initiated it as a way to handle the growing number of people that were attending our Halloween party each year,” Brooks said. “Additionally, we recognized that since Windham has its rural areas, there are some families who wanted the benefit of seeing the kids in their costumes, but don’t traditionally get trick-or-treaters at their homes.”

In past years Brooks said that “Trunk or Treat” was just one part of our larger themed “Halloween Adventure” that included costume contests, games, refreshments and “haunted happenings.” But by 2019, the town decided to focus on the “Trunk or Treat” event alone, since it has turned out to be the best way to effectively manage so many participants.

But dealing with COVID-19 concerns and having to limit the size of what has previous been one of the town’s largest community events posed significant challenges.

“We appreciate the way that families followed the requirement to pre-register and attend at a designated time, as well as complied with the need to wear masks and remain at a safe distance,” Davenport said. “Beyond that, the trunk hosts were very creative in distributing candy while trying to keep some distance from the vehicles, which was another change due to the pandemic. The bottom line is that we were able to address these challenges because everyone involved was willing to adapt and follow the necessary precautions, which made all the difference.”

Event co-host the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce was humbled to be a part of this year’s “Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat” and the chamber’s Executive Director, Robin Mullins, said participants loved what they experienced.

“The feedback I heard as one of the participating trunks was that people were appreciative that we had the event,” Mullins said. “With so many events getting cancelled due to COVID-19, people were happy to have something safe and fun for them to do with their kids.”

Mullins said she was impressed by how much support there was in the community for this event.

“For me the biggest take away was how the community came together to be there for one another,” she said. “Trunks were assembled by businesses, nonprofits, Windham Fire and Rescue and families in the community. It was so great to see the participation from the trunks and the appreciation from the community members who attended.”

Mullins said she wanted to thank Brooks and her team at Windham Parks and Recreation for allowing the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber to partner with them for the event.

“Even though we didn’t win a prize for best trunk and watch out, next year we’ll be bigger and better, we still had a fantastic time and look forward to Trunk or Treat 2021,” Mullins said.

Davenport said that one thing she’ll take away from this experience is that even in challenging and unusual times, the town of Windham is able together to create special memories and celebrations.

“We are very fortunate to have a supportive community, and it was just very clear throughout this process that people are willing to be flexible and understanding,” she said. “I always knew that Windham was a great community, but it was just underscored during all of the planning and preparation as well as during the actual Trunk or Treat itself.”

She thanked Mullins and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce for co-hosting and helping Windham Parks and Recreation to reimagine Trunk or Treat in the time of COVID-19.

“We would also like to thank the businesses who donated prizes for trunk hosts: Applebee’s in North Windham, Smitty’s in North Windham, and Spare Time in Portland,” Davenport said. “And we would like to thank all of the volunteers, local businesses, community organizations, and families who hosted trunks, as we couldn’t have Trunk or Treat without them.”

Submissions for the Windham Halloween Costume Contest will be judged by members of the Lions Club on Friday, and Davenport said Windham Parks and Recreation will be posting the winners on its website and social media.

“We have some great entries, and we can’t wait to share them with everyone,” Davenport said. “We want to thank Dairy Queen in North Windham for donating the costume contest prizes.” <


Tips, tricks and tools for the perfect jack-o’-lantern this Halloween

By Lorraine Glowczak

Ghosts made of white linen floating from trees and plastic skeletons rattling on the front door are favorite Halloween decorations used and loved by many. But there is only one classic and steadfast decorating tradition; the toothy grin of a blazing jack-o’-lantern sitting on the front porch to frighten ghouls and goblins.

Whether you desire to sculpt a jack-o’-lantern that would land on the cover of “Martha Stewart Living Magazine” or prefer the more conventional triangle face, there are many tips, tricks and tools that professionals use to make the pumpkin carving adventure fun and successful.

No matter your preference, all perfect jack-o'-lanterns must begin with the perfect pumpkin. 

For those who want to go the extra mile and be
the envy of the neighborhood, try a 3D carving
like this jack-o'-lantern created by Maurice
'Mo' Auger, a master pumpkin carver from
Writer Laura Pucillo, who interviewed many professional pumpkin carvers suggests the following when buying the famous orange fruit (yes, botanically speaking, a pumpkin is a fruit. It is also not considered a gourd).

Pumpkins to avoid

1)      Avoid those with soft spots and cuts. Pucillo said these blemishes are tell-tale signs that the pumpkin is starting to rot. She recommends making sure the pumpkin you pick is firm all over.

2)      She also warns against purchasing pumpkins with green patches or brown spots. This indicates the fruit is either under- or over-ripe.

3)      Avoid frost-bitten pumpkins. Pucillo states that cold weather damages flesh and skin, making the pumpkin rot faster and giving it a mushy texture.

4)      Pucillo advises checking out the stem. The size and strength of the stem are good signs of a strong, healthy fruit. She recommends choosing one with a stem that is at least two inches wide and are green.

Cut the pumpkin from the bottom

What may surprise the amateur pumpkin carver is that most professionals recommend cutting and opening the pumpkin from the bottom and not the top.

“This prevents the sides from caving in, which happens more frequently and quickly when a pumpkin is opened and cut from the top,” said Maurice “Mo” Auger, a Master Pumpkin 3D Carving Professional from Alfred, Maine. “Also, cutting the pumpkin from the bottom makes it much easier to scrap out the pulp and seeds. It also provides a straightforward way to place a candle or light inside the pumpkin because all you have to do is lift it up and place the candle in the center.”

Tools of the trade – from simple to complex

Most pumpkin carving professionals recommend using the easy and inexpensive carving tools that can be purchased at the local drug or discount store. But for those who want to give their jack-o’-lanterns a little extra pizzazz, consider using the following tools to let your Halloween creativity flow.


Cookie cutters - With a little help of a small hammer or rubber mallet, a cookie cutter can provide a non-traditional sharp outline. Pull out the star shaped cookie cutters from Christmas, or better yet, purchase Halloween cookie cutters such as a witch’s hat, a scary cat or a flying bat and pound away gently to create a unique jack-o’- lantern motif.


Electric drill - If you are going for polka dot inspired words such as “Boo” or “Haunted” – or you want to create a “starry night” with an extra special scary design, an electric drill is a perfect and easy tool to “carve” a pumpkin. Use different sized drill bits and come up with your own unique image and design.    

COMPLEX – 3D Carvings

Pottery tools – For those who want to go the extra mile and be the envy of the neighborhood, there are at least 10 to 15 pottery tools from your local arts and craft store that one can consider. Auger has narrowed it down to his favorites.

“I use only three pottery tools,” said Auger, who carves 300 to 900-pound pumpkins into a 3D image. “I use the wide blade tools to skin the pumpkin, the small blade tool for the outline, and the shaping tool to provide depth and allow the light to shine through in various ways.”

Auger, a former art teacher, works with children across Maine and New Hampshire on some of his pumpkin projects, so he chooses these three tools for safety and he said they are perfect for the family pumpkin task.

Auger also said that if the big 3D carving is what you are going for, the regular field pumpkin is not your best bet, but at least a 200 pound or more is what you will need to purchase. As for the design, he lets the pumpkin speak to him.

“I see the design in the shape of the pumpkin, and it dictates the carving that is created,” Auger said.

Auger also offers the following advice for those who wish to take pumpkin carving to the next level:

1)      If using a 200 pound or larger pumpkin, cut the fruit from the back instead of the bottom. Once you scrap the pulp and seeds away the best you can – be sure to look for faults and cracks in the pumpkin. This will determine if there will be any problems in the carving process. It will also help to establish how thick the skin is and will help determine the design.

2)      Fire needs oxygen to burn. If your candle won’t stay lit, you probably need more airflow. This is especially a problem if you cut your pumpkin from the bottom. Auger advises poking small holes on top to allow the oxygen to rise and holes in the back to allow oxygen to flow. This works best for the smaller field pumpkins.

3)      For larger pumpkins, Auger uses garden-sized flood lights to give the eerie glow he is after.

4)      The white pumpkin typically provides the thinnest skin and thus the easiest to carve.

Whether it is a new family tradition or one that has been a family Halloween custom for years, may this year’s pumpkin carving adventure be full of fun and success – and just spooky enough to scare the ghosts and goblins away.

For more information on 3D carving, visit Mo Auger’s website at

Source: <


Halloween alternatives in time of COVID-19

By Briana Bizier

It was shaping up to be the best Halloween ever. This year, Oct. 31 falls on a Saturday, which means no arguing with overtired, costumed children about going to bed instead of eating another five pounds of candy, and no sending bleary-eyed children to school after a late night of running through the streets with their friends.

What’s more, this year there is also a full moon on Halloween night. It’s October’s second full moon, making it a Halloween blue moon. Perhaps best of all, the day after Halloween, Sunday, Nov. 1, is the return of Eastern Standard Time, giving all the little monsters and their parents an extra hour of sleep.

One socially distant way to celebrate with your
children is to drive around local neighborhoods
and view creative homes decorated for Halloween.
No matter what you do this Halloween, don't
ditch the fun. There are plenty of ways to enjoy
the occasion safely. COURTESY PHOTO
By all indications, Halloween 2020 was going to be one for the record books.

Then came COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, that perennial favorite of Halloween traditions, as a higher risk activity. The town of Raymond, following that advice, scrapped their traditional Main Street Halloween celebration, and Windham offered a drive-through Trunk or Treat last weekend for their residents as an alternative to door-to-door trick-or-treating.

Losing the activity that makes Halloween so special for many children, and even some parents, is a tough blow. While there are alternatives to make this holiday feel special, it’s important to be honest with your children: This is a loss. It’s the latest loss in a long string of loss that dates all the way back to March, when most of us thought this whole pandemic thing would blow over in time to see the grandparents for Easter.

If your children are upset over losing their night of trick-or-treating, it might help to remind them why it’s important that we keep avoiding large crowds and close contact with lots of other people. As awful as it is to cancel celebrations, COVID-19 is worse. Even a mild case of COVID is unpleasant, and scientists and doctors still don’t know what long-term health effects some COVID patients might face over the coming years.

It might also help to remind your children that they are part of something larger. Mainers have done a tremendous job following public health recommendations and controlling this outbreak, and keeping our distance from one another, even on Halloween night, is an important part of our success. We will all miss trick-or-treating this year, but by staying home, we’re protecting the vulnerable and watching out for our community — just like a superhero. Hey, we’re all even wearing masks.

However, as my 10-year-old points out, you can’t just cancel Halloween. Most of our beloved Halloween rituals, such as decorating the house and yard with creepy, funny, or just plain weird decorations, are still perfectly safe. Pumpkins can still be carved into jack-o-lanterns, skeletons can still dance in the windows, and you can still craft that perfect costume.

When it comes to that Saturday night, full moon, Halloween 2020 celebration, families have lots of alternative options. One friend told me she is planning on making Halloween baskets this year as a spooky riff on Easter baskets. Another friend will make a candy scavenger hunt for her older children, leaving them a trail of clues to unravel in order to find their treats. My sister, who lives several states away in a neighborhood with no resident bears, plans on hiding candy in the backyard for her young children to find with flashlights.

If you have older children, it might be fun to take a full moon Halloween hike on a well-known trail, perhaps even while wearing your costumes. Younger children might enjoy a similar hike before the sun goes down, and parents can always offer candy as a reward, or as a bribe, for a hike well done.

Additionally, it is still possible to plan socially distanced trick-or-treating drop-offs with friends and family in town. The CDC recommends giving individual bags of treats instead of letting children paw through an enormous bowl of candies. If you coordinate beforehand, you could drive to houses where family and friends have set out tables of individually wrapped Halloween treats. Just be sure to wash your hands before you dive into those peanut butter cups!

Finally, as we navigate yet another seasonal holiday that has changed dramatically due to COVID, be sure to remind your children - and yourself - that this too shall pass. Pandemics don’t last forever, and someday, we will all trick-or-treat beneath the rising moon once again. <

Friday, October 23, 2020

RSU 14 middle school music programs shift focus during pandemic

Seventh-grade students rehearse for an upcoming
video concert with Applied Arts Coordinator
and Music Teacher Morgan Riley during band
class at Windham Middle School on
Wednesday morning. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Elizabeth Richards           

Middle school music programs in RSU 14 have been altered this year because of the pandemic and CDC guidelines, but that’s not stopping students from learning and creating music in innovative ways.

Chorus has been put on hold at both Windham Middle School and Jordan-Small Middle School.

"According to the guidelines, if we were to sing together, we would have to have the kids spaced 14 feet apart, all wearing masks, and all facing the same direction. And if possible, be outside," said JSMS Chorus and Orchestra Director Rose Underkofler. "Singing in a mask is also very difficult as it's hard to take a very deep breath with masks on, and it's hard to hear yourself sing because there's really no place for the sound to go."  

General music and band classes have a different focus this year, since wind instruments can’t be played inside and sharing instruments isn’t possible. Morgan Riley, Applied Arts Coordinator and music teacher at WMS, said students are learning how to play percussion instruments one day each week.

In these classes, students work on rhythm, playing as part of an ensemble, and performing, essential aspects for all musicians, Riley said.  

In addition, Riley creates lessons/play along videos for students to use on days they are at home, to
allow students to play their wind instruments and keep their skills sharp.

JSMS music teacher Alex Adams also said band students are working on their instruments at home. On Fridays, they have a private lesson via video chat to help meet individualized goals.

“Some of that has been really great for individual attention and differentiation for students but for some kids it takes away the experience of being in a band with others and the joy of making music in school on wind instruments,” Adams said.

Instead of choosing instruments this year, JSMS fifth-grade students are learning pre-band skills through a curriculum based around learning popular music and rock band instruments, Adams said.

These unique times have led to a broader focus in music education.

“Music isn’t just Band or Chorus, though we hope those will be back soon,” Adams said. “It’s all
around us all the time and there are hundreds of ways to be a part of music.”  

Students are learning the technique and art of recording and editing sounds by working to create oral history podcasts as a class, Adams said.

“Students are going to be interviewing each other about the current moment in history and editing together a podcast with a script, student generated score and interviews that tell their own perspectives in their own words about this remarkable time we’re all living through,” he said. “Our work not only allows us to master some skills that are essential to recording and making music in a modern context, it also allows for some curricular integration with History and English.”

Underkofler said that sanitizing challenges that make teaching instruments difficult have led to more creating and composing in general music classes.

“Asking students to think outside of the normal general music box has been really interesting, not only
for the students, but for me too,” she said.

Orchestra classes are being held as usual, with students safely distanced. The biggest difference, Underkofler said, is the goal the orchestra is working towards, since they know there’s no safe way to have an in-person, live concert.

“We're working on these pieces and learning all of these new skills with the questions looming over our heads of ‘how do we showcase this to the community?’”

Underkofler said her goal is to have a virtual concert around the holidays to showcase student work and show the community that they are still making music during the pandemic. They may even create a combined piece with the orchestras from both middle schools, something a typical year may not have allowed for, she said.

In addition to a  fifth to eighth-grade video concert that will include filmed in-class performances of rock band songs and virtual bands made up of at-home recordings, they plan to release the oral history podcasts on streaming sites so the community can hear both the perspective about the world today and the audio craftsmanship of the young folks at JSMS, Adams said.

Riley said he plans to use the district videographer several times throughout the year to record
performance videos to share with parents.

While the pandemic has presented many challenges, educators also look for the positives.

“We've gotten the opportunity, even during this awful, uncertain time, to look at our program through a different lens,” Underkofler said. “We're getting to do these creative and new activities with our students that's giving them new knowledge of what music can be and how we can experience and create! We aren't trying to put a square peg in a round hole. We've just changed the board.”

Adams said students say the smaller class sizes are helping them understand the material better and have better class experiences.

“One student told me last week that they wished that school could be back to full time but with the same sized classes because they got more teacher time and felt like they understood the material better,” he said.

“The bottom line is that the student musicians of WMS are being given an outlet in music, whether they are playing the instrument they started with or not, and are eager to share their progress with staff members who pop in to class,” Riley said. “They are ecstatic to be able to make music with their peers
again. COVID-19 won't stop music at WMS.”

“Students are creating great work even while coping with an entirely new school experience. Parents, students, and teachers are all in a new and difficult situation and from my perspective we’ve come together as best we can and are doing some amazing things both in spite of and because of the situation before us,” Adams said. “I would say a big thank you to the community for rising to these challenges and supporting our programs.” < 

Windham driver a formidable force on racetracks in 2020

Bobby Timmons III of Windham competes
in a Super modified race at Star Speedway
in Epping, New Hampshire. He is a third-
generation auto racer who is making his
mark on the racing scene in New England.
Timmons won the 350 Super modified race at
Thompson Motor Speedway Motorsports
Park in Connecticut over the Columbus
Day weekend.
By Ed Pierce

As far back as Bobby Timmons III can recall, he’s had a need for speed and 2020 has proven to be an unqualified success for the 27-year-old driver from Windham.

A third-generation racer, Timmons, 27, launched his career while competing in go-karts at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough after watching his father, Bobby Timmons, Jr. and his grandfather, Bobby Timmons, race Super modified automobiles at racetrack in both Maine and New Hampshire. His devotion to living up to their legacy has led to numerous racing victories, including taking the checkered flag in September’s Star Classic at the Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire and winning the 350 Super modified race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut over the Columbus Day weekend.

“I admire my dad and his work ethic toward racing cars and life in general,” Timmons said. “Growing up I was a fan of local guys that were friends with my dad, Scott Mulkern, Gary Drew, and Larry Gelinas. I was also a big fan of Ben Rowe. On the NASCAR end of things, I was huge Kevin Harvick fan. He filled in for Earnhardt after he died and was a rookie the same year that I was a rookie in go-karts.” 

Currently Timmons competes in two different super modified cars, which are a class of open wheel race cars that compete on paved short tracks throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“The car I drive predominantly is a 350-super modified. It has a 350-cubic inch Chevrolet small block engine that produces a little over 400 horsepower and 10-inch wide tires,” Timmons said. “The other car I have is an ISMA (International Super Modified Association) super modified. That car has a 468-
cubic inch Chevrolet big block that makes around 800 horsepower and has tires that range from 13- to 18-inches wide. They are considered the fastest short track racecars in the country.” 

During the season, Timmons races weekly at Star Speedway in New Hampshire on a one quarter-mile banked track. Races are typically 35 to 60-laps in length. In winning in his final race of the year in Connecticut, Timmons raced on a 5/8 of a mile track with the most banking out of any racetrack in New England. This summer he also raced in three ISMA events and in the past has raced in the Oxford 250 in Maine.

“The challenge of trying to make a car go faster than everyone else in the garage and on the track, the friends I've made along the way, and the shear aspect of driving a car that fast are the best things about  the sport for me,” Timmons said. “At the last ISMA race I competed in, we were reaching speeds of 150 mph.”

A 2011 graduate of Windham High School, Timmons says that the worst part of auto racing for drivers is the money it takes just to be there, let alone to be competitive

“We are very fortunate to be able to build a lot of the things we need to race in-house, but the costs of everything that we can't build or the things that we have to have continue to go up in price every year,” he said. “We have a couple of small sponsors that help us out with the weekly costs of new tires or fuel,
but my dad and I fund the majority of it out of our own pockets.”

He’s worked for his father since he was 12 and is a machinist and a welder at his father’s shop, Timmons Machine & Fabrication Inc. of Windham, when not racing Super modified cars.

“My dad built his first super modified when he was 19-years-old,” Timmons said. “Buying equipment and tools to do so is what eventually led to him starting his own business in 1985 that we have still going today. But it’s an entire family affair for us. My dad works on the cars with me. My mom and sister are at just about every race to support me. My sister’s husband helps us out and races go karts himself. My last remaining grandparent, my grandmother on my dad’s side, is my biggest fan and never misses a race. She owns the ISMA big block super that I race.”

His advice for others wanting to become a racer is to just enjoy the experience and have fun.

“Racing has given me a lot of great moments in my life and I've made plenty of lifelong friends from it,” Timmons said. “I just want to keep having fun.” <

Windham family aims to preserve Halloween tradition for area children

Volunteers and donations being accepted

By Lorraine Glowczak

Many lessons can be learned through times of challenge and the pandemic is no exception. Today, individuals are confronted with unusual circumstances and make every effort to adjust. Some adjustments require new and expanded points of view as well as increased adaptability and innovative approaches to the way life has become.

The world has made many modifications in the past seven months and now with the holidays approaching, another set of adjustments may be required.

Nikki Taiani of Windham and her family have decided not to be beaten by the present circumstances. They are determined to rise up against the challenge, taking the initiative to keep the Halloween tradition of handing out candy to children on Halloween night, but with a safe and unusual twist.

“We will be delivering candy and toys to the mailboxes and doorsteps of area children on the evening of Oct. 31,” Taiani said. “We delivered Easter Baskets in the same way back in April and have decided to do the same for Halloween.”

Taiani recognized how COVID was taking a toll on families in the early months of the pandemic and
decided to help relieve some of that stress on Easter Sunday.

“COVID hit everyone hard and we were still in the early stages of it, not having answers or a direction,” Taiani said. “I saw a lot of families struggling with the isolation, the quarantine (the lack of toilet paper) and figured this would be a nice way to bring some smiles to those families.”

Easter was six months ago. The virus has not stepped back and neither has the pressure faced by many. As a result, Taiani and her family have decided to act once again.

“COVID is still here, it’s still causing a lot of stress and fear,” she said. “Halloween is a big tradition for a lot of families, and some aren't ready to go out, door to door, so I want to bring a little something to them.”

This time around, however, she wants to expand her deliveries to bring happiness to more people. As a result, she shared a Facebook post on Oct. 4 on the Windham Maine Community Board, letting others know she was in the process of making “boo-bags” that will include candy and toys which would be delivered to area children and inquired to see if others wanted to help.

“We have received a lot of support from that one post,” Taiani said. “We have enough to make 150 ‘boo-bags’ – but there is always room for more.”

As of this printing, the Taiani family and volunteers will be delivering to children in Windham, Hollis and Gray but want to deliver the boo-bags to as many children as possible.

“I would love to reach other communities,” Taiani said. “Although we have volunteers to deliver to the
Hollis and Gray areas, we would love to be able to deliver to Raymond too.”

If your family wishes to receive “boo-bags” from the Taiani family or would love to donate time, candy or toys, please contact Nikki Taiani via social media such as Facebook or email her at

Even on a dark, cold and scary night, the Taiani family and volunteers will shine some light, warmth and reassurance to many this Halloween.<

League of Women Voters of Maine distributing election voter guide

A comprehensive voter guide
publication compiled by the League
of Women Voters of Maine is now
available and contains helpful
nonpartisan information about
candidates and election details.
By Ed Pierce

Before heading to cast a ballot on Election Day or completing an Absentee Ballot, voters may want to review a handy new publication issued by the League of Women Voters.

Last week, the League of Women Voters announced they have printed and are distributing more than 120,000 copies of a new informative and nonpartisan publication to voters. About 90,000 copies of the publication will be direct mailed to state residents, with the remainder to be distributed statewide by volunteers and partners of the organization.

“There isn’t a better nonpartisan resource out there for voters to learn what they’ll see on their Nov. 3 ballot,” said Anna Kellar, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “I hope every voter will arm themselves with this information as they head to the polls between now and Nov. 3.”

Kellar said this will be the widest distribution of an election publication that the League of Women Voters of Maine has ever attempted.

Paper copies of the voter guide are also now available at the Raymond Village Library and the Windham Public Library.

For years, the Maine League of Women Voters has created and made available to the public its popular guide to voting and this year is certainly no exception, said Ann Luther, Treasurer of the League of Women Voters of Maine.

“The League's Easy-to-Read Voter Guide is an election-year tradition,” Luther said. “People love its large-print format and its plain-English explanations.”

According to Luther, the new voter publication is filled with information about the U.S. Presidential election, Maine U.S. Senate and Maine U.S. House candidates. It also contains general information about how to vote in person or via absentee ballot, various election processes, a review about how Ranked Choice Voting works in Maine, and a sample ballot.

The League has also launched a digital version to share on its website,, Luther said.

In addition to the new election guide, voters in Windham and Raymond may consider visiting online to learn more about all of the state legislative races, along with Cumberland County candidates, the Windham Town Council candidates, RSU 14 school board candidates, and a number of referendums, including the RSU 14 withdrawal referendum in Raymond.

“Good democracy requires good information, and voters deserve a nonpartisan guide to help them make informed choices this election,” said Evan Tess Murray, the Education and Engagement Projects Manager for the League of Women Voters of Maine and lead author who helped create the voter guide.

Residents of Maine and individuals can request a bundle of voter guides for their school, business, faith community, nonprofit organizations and more and they are also available in bundles of 50 upon request.

Besides the voter guide, the League of Women Voters of Maine has launched a new hotline this fall to help voters find answers to their questions about voter registration, absentee ballots, and understanding Ranked Choice Voting.

“Voters have a lot of questions and uncertainty about voting this year, and we have trained volunteers, who are standing by, to ensure everyone can quickly get answers they can trust,” Kellar said.

Call or text the hotline at 207-558-3333 or send an email to for more information about the hotline. The League of Women Voters of Maine is partnering with other non-partisan Maine organizations to answer questions on Facebook at the “Help ME Vote” page.

The League of Women Voters of Maine is a public policy organization. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, the League does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Membership in the League of Women Voters of Maine is open to anyone age 16 or older.

For more information, go to <n, the League does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Membership is open to anyone 16 years of age or older.