A member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet is visiting Maine on Monday.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is visiting Regional School Unit 21 in Kennebunk and Wells.
He’s set to discuss how federal funding can help solve school bus driver shortages in the state.
In some communities, routes are still getting canceled at the last minute as districts rush to fill the gaps.
Cardona plans to speak with the district’s bus drivers about solving the problem, largely through the use of federal COVID-19 funding. Leaders in RSU 21 said that money is helping.
Through the American Rescue Plan, the district has been able to purchase new school buses and give every full-time staff member a $500 bonus. This includes teachers, education techs, maintenance and transportation crews, as well as nutrition and administrative staff.
They also said it helped pay for a new Summer Boost program, a program focused on the arts and the hiring of new allied arts teachers.
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Superintendent Terri Cooper said transportation quickly became a challenge when the pandemic hit but the funds have given them the option of adding more buses without using taxpayer money.
Cooper said the school is honored to host the visit from Cardona, who is a former elementary school teacher and principal in Connecticut.
The secretary’s overall goal is to help students make up for the things they have missed out on during the pandemic like instructional time and access to mental health support, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
It also stated that Cardona wants to tackle issues in education that existed even before the pandemic.
Cardona will be joined by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District.
Pingree was one of the representatives who voted to pass President Biden’s American Rescue Plan in March last year.
The meeting is set to start at 12 p.m.