The Winslow High School’s girls basketball team visited the State House, in Augusta, on April 13, to be cited by the Legislature with a legislative sentiment recognizing their Class B state championship victory. During their visit, they were greeted by local delegation, Sen. Scott Cyrway and Rep. Catherine Nadeau, of Winslow.
The China Tax Increment Finance Committee will hold its regular meeting on Monday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m., in the China Town Office.
The public information session will be a review of progress on current initiatives:
- Bridge replacement and the Causeway Road, by Tom Michaud, Jim Wilkens and Frank Soares.
- Phase I, bridge replacement, with Joe McLean from Wright-Pierce.
- Phase II, other site improvements and the need to proceed (parking enhancements, waterfront configuration, boat ramp, and permitting. Phase III, additional parking considerations.
There will also be a revolving loan fund program update, and presentations on the China for Lifetime Committee, with chairman Christopher Hahn, Alewive Restoration Initiative with Landis Hudson.
Other items at the meeting will include China Lake access, China Forest Trails/Project Learning Tree, Four Seasons Events building.
Finally there will be applications to the TIF Committee for consideration of funding from the TIF resource.
On April 22, the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in China Village, hosted Dr. Louisa Barnhart who spoke to a full room of participants and showed pictures and videos of her three month trip to Southeast Asia with her husband, Michael Klein. Their travels included Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Dr. Barnhart described the visit to Bhutan in detail with pictures and videos. There were dances with elaborate costumes and masks that illustrated the mythology of their culture. Then she described numerous adventures in other cultures, including changes she experienced from travel 35 years ago.
A display of the textiles, masks used in celebrations, and samples of various foods and drinks representing the area. Participants were able to taste the foods and drinks and get acquainted with some items that Dr. Barnhart brought back from Southeast Asia.
The April 18 China selectmen’s meeting was preceded by a public hearing on a liquor license application for MJEK, Michael Marois’ seafood restaurant on Lakeview Drive. Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux reported that no public comments were made. During their meeting selectmen approved the application.
In other business, L’Heureux said:
- Selectmen added another China police officer, appointing former Clinton Police Chief Craig Johnson, who will be able to patrol during the day and work on special details when needed.
They heard a report from Jim Dinkle, executive director of the Kennebec Regional Development Authority that runs the FirstPark business park, in Oakland, about marketing the park.
- They signed a roadside mowing contract with Richard Drew, doing business as Aggressive Cuts, LLC, of Hampden
- They appointed Janet Lully to the Revolving Loan Fund Committee.
China’s TIF (Tax Increment Finance) Committee will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 7, to update residents on the causeway project at the head of China Lake’s east basin. The hearing will be followed by a TIF meeting.
At 6:15 p.m. the board held a public hearing relating to a new liquor license application for MJEK Ent. LLC, sole proprietor, Michael Marois, 239 Lakeview Drive. After the public hearing and during the regular board meeting, the board approved the application.
The Board also:
- Approved of and signed the Ration and Declaration and Reimbursement Application, a declaration of a certified ratio or percentage of just value upon which local assessments are based;
- Approved of and signed Red Light Applications for WMVFD, SCVFD, and CVVFD department members;
- Heard updates from select board member Irene L. Belanger on active committees and other organizations;
- Had a brief conversation about the proposed new Marijuana Laws in Maine and how Medical Marijuana establishments are licensed;
- Had an Executive Session pursuant to 1 M.R.S.A. §405 (6) (E) Consultation with Legal Counsel;
- Established the next regular SB meeting to be held on Monday evening, April 30, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the town office, and,
- Decided to have a Board meeting on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. in the portable classroom to review applications for the position of town manager.
by Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979
Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!
My apologies that the bottle drive that was held last weekend at the Solon Fire Station was submitted too late for publishing. I have to receive news by Sunday to get it in on Thursday’s paper. I thank Aryke Coombs, very much. This is the second time I have received news from her, and I can’t begin to state how much that means to me.
Perhaps if you had some place where bottles could be dropped off at any time, that might help. If you think that would work, just let me know, and I will print it here.
Another thing I would like to bring up, since Lief got scammed we do not answer the phone unless you are leaving a message. (Being scammed is not something I wish to go through again, EVER!) As I have stated here more than once, I truly do appreciate hearing from you with any news that you have, that I can print. On one occasion, a person had e-mailed and I found it in my dump box so it never got printed, (my computer has a mind of its own! But…..) I try to forgive this machine when it brings me e-mails like the following one from G.G. Roberts. “Thank you so much for writing about our January soup and sandwich! Turnout was very light but your article brought some to us! Would you be able to include a notice in your column about the following?”
East Madison Grange is having a: corn beef and cabbage supper with all the Irish fixings on Saturday, May 19, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., at the Grange. FMI contact G.G.Roberts, 730-0878.
And you are personally invited! Make yourself known to me and eat and enjoy us for free!
East Madison Grange 141st anniversary is Saturday, May 12, and the meeting is open to the public. Supper at 5:30 p.m. and meeting at 7 p.m. Surrounding granges and folks interested in Grange come to this party.
She writes that, “My information is that “everyone reads Marilyn.” (Such sweet words, and very much appreciated! Thank you, G.G.)
The following information will be of absolutely no use to women now-a-days but, I thought it might give some of you a good laugh. How to put on Your Back Lace Corset. Loosen lacings to full length, so that the spread is three or four inches across laces. Fasten front clasp and hooks below. Next pull corset over hips and set at waistline. Always fasten back supporters first, side supporters next, and front supporters loosely so that they will not pull garment down in front. Pull strongly and evenly on waist loops to set corset firmly at waistline. Pull evenly on lacers at hip loops, and tighten lacings until garment is comfortable. Tie at waistline. When finally adjusted, laces should be two or three inches apart. Tuck in lacing next to body. To take off corset, always loosen lacer at waist loop and hip loop. This relieves strain on front clasp, which helps keep garment in shape, as well as making it easier to remove.
Another really informative one on this little old yellowed card is, “How To Wash Your Rubber Reducing Corset.” This really precious, (to me anyway) little card , was in among some old papers that my brother Steve gave to me. Hope you enjoyed reading about the ‘Good Old Days’!
Now we mustn’t forget about Percy’s memoir entitled Extra Things. We thank Thee, God, for extra things You send along our way Both when our days are sunny bright And when our skies are gray. The little planned surprises dropped From Thy great, loving hand, Like unexpected showers on A parched and desert land. The meeting of an old friend, The lifting of a care, The sunlight breaking through the clouds To tell us You are there. Just why You do these extra things Our finite minds don’t know; It must be You delight in them Because You love us so! (words by Alice Hanche Mortenson.)
CHARLES R. MERRITHEW
PALERMO – Charles R. Merrithew, 93 of Palermo, passed away on Saturday April 7, 2018. He was born in 1924, the son of Willie and Mary Merrithew of Palermo.
Charles better known as “Charlie” to most and as “Chuck” to some of his family members, was known for his love of hard work and for his love and dedication to his family, community, and his country.
He loved to work in the woods with his chain saw and tractor. He also enjoyed dancing, fishing, country music, eating seafood, hot dogs and any type of gathering with his family and friends.
Charles was married in 1943 to Mildred L Lowell, of Springfield, his wife of over 48 years who passed in 1992.
He proudly served as a wheeled vehicle mechanic in the US Army from 1943-1946 during World War II, during which time he was stationed in different parts of Europe and lastly in Germany.
Charles worked 33 years for Kenway Corporation, a Palermo based company at its beginning, now expanded and moved into Augusta, where he began first building wooden boats and then later moved primarily into industrial fabrication working with fiberglass. He retired from Kenway in 1992.
He was a member of the Malcolm Glidden VFW Post #163 of Palermo.
He had two sisters, one surviving, Winifred Reynolds, of Rockland, and Gloria (Carey) Monson, of Palermo, who passed in 2006.
Additionally, he is survived by his daughter Bernice Jones and her husband John, of Palermo. three grandchildren, Gary, Kelly and Leanne; four great-grandchildren, Kaylah, Abigail, Isaac and Joseph; two nieces, Lisa, Rena, and nephew Jeffrey.
Charles will be remembered for his gentle and kind nature and for living an unselfish life during which he was always willing to give and to provide service to others.
A graveside remembrance will be observed in his honor later this year.
Donations in his memory can be made to the Malcolm Glidden VFW Post #163, PO Box 183, Palermo ME 04354.
GORDON B. WEBBER
OAKLAND – Gordon Bruce Webber, 69, passed away Saturday, April 7, 2018, at Woodlawn Nursing Home, in Skowhegan, following a long illness. He was born in Waterville on January 19, 1949, the son of Robert and Linnie (Anderson) Webber.
He retired from Brookfield Power Co., of Waterville, where he had been employed as a senior hydro engineer for several years. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Gordon was a lifetime member of the Waterville Lodge of Elks #905, and the Central Maine ATV Club. He also enjoyed hunting, fishing and four wheeling.
He is survived by his wife, Susan; daughter, Christina Webber, of Oakland; his three brothers, J. Ronald Webber, of Waterville, Charles Webber, of New York City, and Robert Webber, of South Glastonbury, Connecticut, and one sister Judith Muir, of Weymouth, Massachusetts; several nieces and nephews; and grandnieces and grandnephews.
Condolences may be expressed, and guestbook signed, at: www.gallantfh.com.
Memorial donations may be made to the Humane Society Waterville Area, 100 Webb Rd., Waterville, ME 04901.
PATRICIA A. WOOD
OAKLAND – Patricia Ann “Patti” Wood, 72, died unexpectedly at MaineGeneral Medical Center on Monday, April 9, 2018. She was born in Waterville on December 22, 1945, the daughter of E. Harlan and Elsie (French) Snow.
Patti graduated from Williams High School, in Oakland, before marrying Dr. David R. Wood, of Readfield, on September 19, 1964.
She designed and built a beautiful medical building with her husband and a beautiful practice full of wonderful people. She graciously ministered spiritually and prayed with many of the patients. She designed a wonderful home in Texas and she was a full partner and participant in their ranching operation. This home was her pride and joy. She also co-founded a Ministry; Eastern Gate Ministries International. She has played a key role in this ministry from the first day until her death.
Patti was preceded in death by her father; and a sister, Sharon Staples.
She is survived by her mother, Elsie Dority, of Waterville; her husband of nearly 54 years, Dr. David R. Wood, of Oakland; her daughter Stacie Dawson and her husband Brian, of San Antonio, Texas; two sons Jereme Wood and his wife Jennifer, of San Antonio, Texas, and David Wood Jr. and his wife Bassia, of Israel; a sister Joyce Stevens and her husband Eugene, of Oakland, her brother Elbridge Snow, of Somerville; seven grandchildren, Kaitlyn and Logan Estridge, Jacquelyn Dawson, Jeffrey and Cooper Wood, Jennifer Stevens and Nathaniel Wood; three great-grandchildren; as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Memories, condolences, photos and videos may be shared with Patti’s family at www.khrfuneralhomes.com.
NEIL E. MCLEAN SR.
VASSALBORO––Following a long and courageous battle with cancer Neil Edward McLean Sr. passed away on Monday, April 9, 2018. He was the son of John Richard McLean and Elva (McEachern) McLean, both of whom predeceased him. Neil was born February 4, 1943, in Augusta.
He grew up and went to school in Vassalboro. Upon leaving school, he enlisted in the Air Force and went on to serve his country honorably for 16 years;including service in Vietnam. Neil was always especially proud of his time in the service of his country. Even after leaving active service, Neil’s patriotic drive and commitment to other service members was reflected in his time as commander of the VFW, in Winslow, from 1981 to 1984. He was directly responsible for setting up a program of financial support for veterans funeral services through the VFW, as well as expanding the banquet hall and other miscellaneous financial benefits for veterans in need.
After leaving the military to be closer to his family, Neil continued to work hard. He was employed in various construction jobs and spent the last 20 years of his professional life working with R, J. Enterprises.
Although Neil officially retired in 2016, he would continue to work beyond that date. When not putting in a few part-time hours with R. J. Enterprises he loved to help family and friends with lawn and other miscellaneous tasks. He also spent a good deal of time with the new friends he made through his church, the Vassalboro United Methodist “Church. He regularly volunteered to help out with tasks around the church and within the community. On those occasions where he was able to enjoy time to himself he was an avid bird watcher and he loved to pass time with his pets; Bentley, Suvi, and Jinxy.
Neil is survived by his three children, Kevin Mclean and his wife Maribel, Neil E. McLean Jr. and his wife Rebekah, and Tricia Chayer and her husband Steven; 11 grandchildren, Hope and Peter Chhum, Seth McLean, Amber Dunn, Stevie Chayer, Nicolas Cardinale, Brady McLean, Keisha McLean, Katherine McLean, Calvin McLean, and Christina McLean; two great-grandchildren, Reily and Evelyn McLean; sister Myrna Duplessie; brother Everett McLean and wife Marie, brother John McLean; sister Deanna Malloy and husband Patrick.
He was predeceased by his former spouse, Linda L. French; his sister-in-law Celeste McLean; and brother-in-law Paul Duplessie.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Disabled American Veterans Organization @secure.dav.org.
THOMAS V. GILLEY JR.
PALERMO – Thomas V. Gilley Jr., passed away at Maine Medical Center, in Portland, on Monday, April 9, 2018, following a 40-year battle with diabetes and other health complications. He was born in Augusta on July 17, 1963, the son of Thomas and Dorothy (Dolley) Gilley Sr.
He was an amazing man, for his abilities, to build a home for his family and his garage, where he enjoyed being the family mechanic.
Tom will be remembered by his wife of 29 years, Tammy (Greene) Gilley; his children: Jeremy, Jessica and Taylor Gilley; his grandchildren, Eric Toothaker and Kara Gilley; his mother, Dorothy Gilley; and sisters, Bobbie Morrison and Dottie Gilley; also by several aunts, uncles, cousins, and nieces.
Tom was predeceased by his father Thomas Gilley Sr.; and brother Lorne Gilley.
A celebration of Tom’s life will be planned with family, and friends will be notified.
An online guestbook may be signed and condolences expressed at www.gallantfh.com.
Memorial donations may be made to the American Diabetes Association.
DAVID L. LOVERING SR.
SOUTH CHINA – David Lee Lovering Sr., 72, of South China, died Thursday, April 12, 2018, at his home. He was born in Augusta, August 17, 1945, the son of Sidney and Pauline Lovering.
He grew up in China and went on to serve in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1965.
After being discharged, David became a professional truck driver working both short and long haul. He and his wife, Carlaine Bovio, worked as a driving team for many years, travelling all over the United States. When he wasn’t working, David enjoyed going to car shows. To his family, he was known as “Grumpy.”
David was predeceased by his parents, Sidney and Pauling.
He is survived by his wife, Carlaine; son, David Lee Lovering Jr. and wife Shannon, of Palmyra; daughters, Lisa Lovering, of Buxton, Sheri Lovering, of Key West, Florida, and Kelly Murray and husband Chris, of Bangor; stepchildren, John Starkey and his fiancée Shekeria Anthony, of Skowhegan; and Tina Kennedy and husband Patrick, of Unity; grandchildren, Skylar, Morgan, Allison, Kaitlyn, Hunter, Autumn, Dominic, Zachary, Emme, Elizabeth, Michael, Aidan and Cheyenne; and two great-grandchildren.
Memories, condolences, photos, and videos may be shared with the family on the obituary page of the website www.khrfuneralhomes.com.
Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 1 Bowdoin Mill Island, Suite 300, Topsham ME 04086.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine invites local businesses, organizations and individuals to sign up to Bowl For Kids’ Sake 2018, presented by Hannaford Supermarkets, Camden National Bank and United Insurance. Local bowling events in Kennebec Valley will be held May 2 – 10 in Augusta, Hallowell and Skowhegan. Teams raise funds for mentoring programs in Kennebec and Somerset counties and then come out to celebrate their success at the state’s largest bowling party – Bowl for Kids’ Sake.
Special Events Manager Mae Slevinsky said Bowl for Kids’ Sake is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine’s largest fundraising event, funding more than half of the agency’s operating budget that serves seven counties throughout mid- coast, eastern and central Maine. Last year’s Kennebec Valley bowling event raised over $82,000 for local community and school-based programs in Kennebec and Somerset counties.
According to Slevinsky, every Big and Little match the agency creates and professionally supports costs about $1,000 annually.
Businesses and individuals can register a team online at bbbsmidmaine.org, select a desired bowling date and time and create team and personal fundraising pages where supporters can make safe, electronic donations.
Bowlers can also download pledge forms to collect donations to bring to the event. Teams that raise $500 or more will receive 2018 Bowl for Kids’ Sake t-shirts at the event. Individuals who raise $100 or more are entered into a grand prize drawing. This year’s theme is Mix To Match. Bowlers are invited to come to the event un-perfectly dressed in mixed-up attire and earn a prize for the zaniest combinations of clothing to help support a match between a Big and a Little. There will be hourly bowling prizes awarded and a special recognition for high fundraisers.
To the editor:
To China residents, and everyone else. When China Selectman Irene Belanger’s article, recruiting town folk to volunteer to pick up trash along our roadsides in honor of Earth Day appeared in The Town Line several weeks ago, my wife Nan and I were excited. Accordingly yesterday, Saturday April 21, we headed to our rendezvous point, not knowing I’d messed up the timing; there was no one at the South China Community Church at 9 a.m. Not giving up, we drove up to the transfer station, got some trash bags and headed out. We decided to cover a stretch of the Alder Park Road from the entrance to the station down toward Lake View Drive, and ended up doing both sides between there and the house with the white picket fence – about three-eighths to one-quarter mile by my estimate. The results of this search were, literally, staggering.
In this distance, we filled two of those massive trash bags to the point where I could barely lift them into the back of our Ford Escape. The variety of garbage was incredible. We got broken bottles (almost exclusively Bud Light), crushed cans, cardboard, cigarette packs, plastic bags, styrofoam packing “peanuts” and food containers, milk jugs, “nip” bottles and interestingly, an exposed roll of 35 mm film; I wonder how long that had been there? Personally, I also disrupted a number of earthworm housewarmings as I extracted crap from the mud and wetland areas. And possibly most disturbing, was the huge amount of fast food residue. I don’t believe there are any McDonald’s or Wendy’s in town, although Dunkin’ Donuts was well represented. Fortunately, I guess, we found only one, capped, injection needle and no used diapers. So all of this again raises the question, “how can any human with a grain of intelligence and concern for our environment discard waste in this fashion?”
If you’re a regular reader of this publication, you may recall several of my previous letters about roadside trash from the perspective of being an enthusiastic bike rider who, thus, sees a lot of it as I tool about our local towns. Already this year, the Weeks Mills Rd., Rte. 3, the Dirigo Road and many sections of Rte. 32 are infested with junk. If you want some exercise and weight training, grab a couple of trash bags and take a walk in almost any direction. And, of course, this is not just true here in central Maine; it is a world-wide issue with very few exceptions. Something must be done to limit and deal with waste in all forms before we as a planet are totally destroyed by this “plague.”
I know, change can be hard – just ask my wife about me. But for the local situation I addressed above, a few additions or alterations can be easy as well. Keep a bag of some sort in your car for any waste you generate while driving. Keep your hands inside the vehicle when handling that stuff. When you get home, place the junk in your trusty waste basket or trash bin. For home owners. or anyone else really, police the roadside as you move around outside. It really isn’t that hard to be environmentally friendly and I hope you’ll feel better about yourself as well. If folks follow these simple suggestions, maybe the turnout for Irene’s request next April will see a marked reduction in the amount of waste they have to pick up. I’ve gotta think positively!
Vassalboro selectmen have moved their first meeting in May from the usual Thursday evening to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, in the town office meeting room.
A major agenda item needs to be signing the warrant for the June 4 and June 12 annual town meeting, because Town Manager Mary Sabins’ schedule calls for the warrant to go to the printer by Friday, May 4, to be included in the annual town report.
However, selectmen ended their April 19 meeting and the budget committee meeting that followed with nothing resembling a finished warrant. There were three problems:
- Sabins was waiting to hear from the Alewife Restoration Initiative, or ARI, what question or questions the group wants to put to Vassalboro voters. She had set aside two warrant articles for ARI, but expects only one to be used.
The manager and selectmen are working on two changes to shorten the warrant, which had 70 separate articles (68 for the June 4 open meeting and two more for written-ballot votes June 12) as of April 19. They propose combining social services and related agencies’ requests in a single article, without hindering voters’ chance to discuss each request separately; and they suggest combining separate requests for authorization to apply for grants into one article.
- The most important problem was the lack of a 2018-19 school budget. Neither the school board nor AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 officials had submitted proposed expenditure figures for the 14 school articles that require a budget committee recommendation.
The school budget makes up the major part of the total expenditures voters will decide on. Selectmen and budget committee members have recommended substantial reductions in amounts Sabins and town department heads initially requested for the municipal budget, and the school board has lowered its original figures; but the projected tax increase is still higher than many budget committee members are comfortable with.
Looking at the potential – but not guaranteed – increase of more than one mil ($1 for each $1,000 of valuation), budget committee member Douglas Phillips opined that “At some point we’ve got to stop raising taxes and live within our means.”
He and other committee members repeatedly said it will be up to voters to decide what they’re willing to pay for. “The bottom line is the people who are going to be affected need to be at the [town] meeting,” Budget Committee Chairman Rick Denico said.
Denico said School Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur said the school board planned to meet April 25. Budget committee members want the school board to further reduce the 2018-19 budget and to have the expected one-time payment from the dissolution of the AOS go toward 2018-19 school revenues, not into surplus.
Denico planned to attend the April 25 school board meeting.
Budget committee members did make recommendations, most but not all unanimous, on municipal warrant articles, agreeing to disagree with the selectmen – at least until May 2 – on minor sums here and there. Both boards abandoned the idea of eliminating the town police department, recommending $69,797 for public safety, including police, animal control and emergency dispatching services. Neither board recommends setting aside money in a reserve fund for a new police vehicle.
June 4 voters will elect six budget committee members instead of the usual five. Denico, Phillips, Richard Phippen and Elizabeth Reuthe are ending their two-year terms, with the option of seeking re-election. John Melrose resigned last fall when he was elected selectman, and Denico said Ed Scholz resigned this month. Whoever is elected to Scholz’s seat will serve for one year, finishing his term.
Town Clerk Cathy Coyne said there will be no contests on the ballot at the June 12 local elections. Unless a write-in candidate declares, Melrose and Jolene Clark Gamage are unopposed for re-election to three-year terms on the board of selectmen and the school board, respectively.
The June 4 open town meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Vassalboro Community School. June 12 voting will be at the town office, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“Nothing’s foolproof,” Augusta Deputy Chief Jared Mills told me at the beginning of our meeting on the issue of school safety. “The best laid plans are not going to prevent this from happening.”
What is ‘this’? Take your pick. Terrorists and school shooters. Bomb threats and bullying. Our students and teachers have a lot to deal with these days.
The fact that nothing is completely foolproof hasn’t stopped our local law enforcement and school administrators from laying down the best possible plans. In researching this article, not only did I speak with Deputy Chief Mills, I also sat down with high school principals Chad Bell, of Winslow, and Paula Callan, of Messalonskee; Headmaster Michael McQuarrie, of Erskine Academy; and Detective Sergeant Tracey Frost, of the Oakland Police Department and one of two school resource officers for RSU #18.
Fifty years ago, schools were primarily designed around the fear of fire. Plenty of exits. Regular fire drills. Today, those concerns have shifted to include “access-point control” and lockdown practice. Fire is still a concern, but now each additional exit or entrance is also a point of vulnerability that needs to be considered. Those changes are obvious by looking at the design of our schools over time. Messalonskee High School, built in 1969, has 37 exits, while the middle school, constructed nearly 50 years later, has only ten.
These warring priorities of access and security are a constant theme for administrators looking to update their facilities for the 21st century.
Schools have responded to the new safety concerns in various ways. Messalonskee High School, like many area schools, has implemented a buzz-in system for the front entrance, and keycard-only access for outlying classrooms. Anyone coming to the front door is required to press a button which signals the front office. After verifying your identity, the door is unlocked and you can enter. Winslow High School does not have this system yet, but Principal Chad Bell told me its implementation is at the top of the school’s list of priorities. New policies have been implemented in both schools restricting which exits can be used during school hours in order to more carefully monitor who is entering the building.
Erskine Academy has its own set of challenges. It’s the only school without a full-time school resource officer and, located on the outskirts of China, it faces the longest response time from law enforcement in case of emergency. Though Erskine’s main building does not have a buzz-in system, external classrooms now require keycards to enter, and all classrooms have been fitted with deadbolts that lock from the inside.
Security upgrades have not only encompassed entrance and exit points. Classrooms have also received attention. In older buildings, classrooms were primarily designed to prevent students from being accidentally locked inside. As such, classrooms could always be opened from within, but often could only be locked from the outside, with a key. Now, schools are preparing for situations where being locked inside a classroom might be the safest place for a student to be.
Winslow has come up with a simple and low-cost solution to the problem. Instead of replacing the outdated locks at significant cost, they have installed a thin, magnetic strip that covers the strike plate of the door jamb. Doors are always locked, but with the magnetic strip in place, they can be closed without latching. In the event of a lockdown, anyone can pull the magnetic strip away from the door jamb and close the door, latching and locking it securely. It’s a simple and elegant solution to a problem that can pose a substantial cost to schools faced with regularly insufficient budgets.
Classroom doors at Messalonskee High School are kept locked but left open so they can be pulled closed at a moment’s notice.
Security cameras have also become a fixture at our schools. Winslow High School has 30 security cameras installed, and although there’s no buzz-in system yet, safety and security are a top priority for the staff. Both times I visited the school, I was asked my business within seconds of stepping through the front doors.
Messalonskee High School has only ten cameras, and the system desperately needs replacing. Installed seven years ago, camera resolution is far below current standards and, after operating 24/7 for nearly a decade, quality has degraded even further. The school intends to replace the system and add more cameras soon, but, as always, cost is the driving factor: new books or new cameras?
Each of these improvements can be taxing on schools scrambling for every cent. Take for example what seems at first a simple problem. Most classroom doors have windows installed in them. Administrators can easily walk the halls and see what is going on in each classroom. But when faced with the worst possible situation, an active shooter in the school, that visibility quickly becomes a dangerous liability. To fix the issue, the windows in classroom doors are now fitted with curtains that can be pulled down from the inside. A fairly easy fix, and cheap. And yet: “At $20 a curtain, roughly,” RSU #18 resource officer Tracey Frost explained, “for hundreds and hundreds of doors across the district? The bill came, but we got it done.”
For Tracey Frost, preparation is key. He aims to make lockdown drills as automatic for students as fire drills, and he thinks he’s almost there. “I can have 800 kids out of a line of sight in under a minute,” he told me proudly. “When we first started doing it, it was maybe two to three minutes.”
The lockdown drills students practice today remind me of the old Nuclear Strike Drills from the 1970s that ended only a few years before I entered school. They start with “LOCKDOWN DRILL! LOCKDOWN DRILL!” blared over the intercom speakers. Students lock classroom doors, pull curtains, and shut off lights. Then they gather in a designated “safety spot” in the classroom, keeping as low as possible, and quietly wait for the all-clear. Or as Tracey Frost puts it: “Locks, lights, and out of sight.”
All of the school administrators I spoke to were in the process of investigating additional training programs to help them prepare for the unthinkable. Three specific such programs seem to be most popular here in central Maine.
“Run, Hide, Fight” is a program endorsed by the Maine Department of Education, and offers a low-cost option with support from the state, but it has its detractors. “I’m not too comfortable with the concept of teaching kids to fight a gunman,” SRO Frost confided, “but I can teach them to stack desks in front of the door. If a bad guy spends 30-seconds trying to get into a classroom and can’t, we’ve saved lives and gained half-a-minute, and that’s a long time in such a situation.”
A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) is another popular program many schools are evaluating. It focuses on preparation and planning to, per their website, “proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter event.”
The final program, which Officer Frost has adapted in large part for schools in RSU #18, is called the Standard Response Protocol. It was developed by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation (iloveuguys.org), an organization started by the parents of a girl killed in the school shooting at Platte Canyon High School in 2006. Frost particularly likes the program’s way of presenting its concepts with colorful, kid-friendly materials, and its method of using what Frost terms “teacher speak:” a common lexicon of terms that make communication between students and teachers simple and unambiguous. The foundation was named after the last text message sent from the girl to her parents before she was shot and killed.
Beyond lockdown drills and hardening schools and classrooms, everyone agrees the best way to prevent school violence is to develop a culture that makes each student feel understood and respected. “[Students] all have to feel valued,” Erskine’s Headmaster Michael McQuarrie told me at the conclusion of our discussion. “If you’re alienated, if you’re disenfranchised and bullied on top of that — that is an incredible variable that we cannot dismiss or underestimate.”
For law enforcement and school officials both, the introduction of the internet has complicated things, especially in the area of identifying possible threats. In the old days, threats came by way of graffiti on bathroom walls, an anonymous phone call or an overheard conversation.
Today, none of those avenues have disappeared, but now there is also Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email, and internet discussion boards to worry about. Add to this the tendency for children to post their thoughts on the internet without fully considering the implications of their words, and it’s common for casual threats to be bandied about on social media platforms with little thought of serious evil intent. In our current safety-conscious climate, however, each of those casual threats must be run down by law enforcement, which takes time away from other, equally important, tasks.
Thankfully, central Maine is still small enough that this hasn’t become the insurmountable effort that it has in bigger urban areas. “We still have the ability to follow up on every tip,” Augusta Deputy Chief Mills assured me. Local law enforcement works closely with the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the FBI to track down the source of any online threats.
Kids are also figuring out that behavior which might have been viewed as merely mischievous in the past is now considered a serious crime. It starts with parents having a conversation with their kids at home. It continues with teachers and administrators creating a school atmosphere where students feel comfortable bringing their concerns to adults. It ends with law enforcement and the courts, which are dealing out tough sentences for online threats of violence. It’s not unusual for students to be expelled, fined or even jailed for such behavior, as happened in Skowhegan where two boys were recently charged with terrorizing, a class C felony; or in Ellsworth where, this past February, police arrested a 19-year-old student for making threats against the high school in a chat for the online game Clash of Clans.
New challenges face our schools like never before, with budget shortfalls, teacher shortages, and now safety concerns that would have seemed unthinkable 50 years ago. Still, the brave public servants in our schools are not shrinking from the challenge, and resource officer Tracey Frost is also quick to point out, “[Statistically,] your child is much more likely to get hurt on the drive into school than they are once they enter this building.”
Despite the challenges, school officials are determined to make student safety a priority, whatever the cost. “You can’t put a price on a student’s life,” Messalonskee principal Paula Callan told me firmly, as we shook hands at the end of our talk. In the face of this scary new world, these heroic public servants are taking no chances with the safety of our kids.
Eric W. Austin is a writer and consultant living in China, Maine. He writes about technology and community issues, and can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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