BIDDEFORD — As Maine’s Catholic schools continue to prepare to re-open for in-person learning over the next two weeks, the accolades they have received for their advance preparation continue to roll in, as does creative assistance from good-hearted people in the community.

“Jimmy Godbout from Jimmy Godbout Plumbing & Heating in Biddeford has changed our water fountains to handwashing stations,” said Nancy Naimey, principal of St. James School in Biddeford.

The handwashing stations will offer another way for students to maintain safety protocols in place at the schools. Each station also has an automatic paper towel dispenser.

The helpful conversion was a labor of love for Jimmy Godbout, whose children attended St. James years ago. His mother once worked at the school as well.

“A parent asked me if I had considered putting in portable handwashing stations,” said Naimey. “I thought I had a brilliant idea of placing a temporary sink on top of the water fountain to create a handwashing station.”

Naturally, Naimey called to see if it was financially feasible.

Thanks to Jimmy, it was. 

“He said ‘I am not going to charge you. The public schools are getting all this money. I am doing this for free.’ I was ecstatic,” said Naimey.

The St. James community was moved by the gesture.

“This is a man who is living the Catholic faith by helping others in need. What a kind and generous man, and he helped our student body stay safe. I am so grateful,” said Naimey.  

The handwashing stations are just one of the many initiatives that have been completed by St. James and other Maine Catholic schools in advance of re-opening to students in the next two weeks, including “traffic” patterns for students in the hallways, sanitizing and additional cleaning protocols, mandatory mask rules, social distancing guidelines, and the implementation of safe air circulation methods. In addition, clear dividers have been placed between many desks to ensure safe distancing. A virtual, remote learning option, where interested families will still be able to receive instruction for children in core content areas while remaining connected to their local school community, has also been established. This follows a highly successful implementation of remote learning from March to June as a result of the pandemic.The schools overseen by the Office of Maine Catholic Schools are All Saints School (St. John Campus/St. Mary Campus) in Bangor, Holy Cross School in South Portland, St. Brigid School in Portland, Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn and Lewiston, St. James School in Biddeford, St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick, St. Michael School in Augusta, and St. Thomas School in Sanford.