China broadband committee meets virtually

China’s Broadband Committee meets virtually at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 15, to continue discussion of expanding internet service in town. People interested in watching or participating in the meeting should contact the town office for information.

At the Oct. 13 selectmen’s meeting, spokesman Tod Detre said the committee is investigating means and costs to upgrade infrastructure in order to provide high-speed internet service throughout the town.

CHINA: Virtual community candidates forum slated for Oct. 18

Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in China Village.

The China Library Association invites China residents to a virtual candidates’ forum hosted by the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, China Village. The ZOOM event will take place on Sunday, October 18, 2020, at 2 p.m.

Dr. Louisa Bernhardt, vice president of the library’s board of directors, will interview the five candidates running for three positions on the China Board of Selectmen, providing an opportunity for voters to become better acquainted with their platforms.

Capacity limit is 100 for the live ZOOM event; however, the forum will be recorded for others to view online at their convenience. Access to the log-in link for the live and recorded event will be available on the library website at chinalibrary.org. Interested residents are invited to send potential questions for consideration to chinalibraryacb@gmail.com.  Please submit your questions by 6 p.m., October 16.

Vassalboro public hearing planned on medical marijuana growing request

by Mary Grow

Faced with a four-item agenda that included three pre-application reviews, Vassalboro Planning Board members have scheduled public hearings on two of them, for Leo Barnett’s requested medical marijuana growing facilities.

The hearings are to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10 (a week later than the board’s usual monthly meeting night because Nov. 3 is Election Day). Due to space limits at the town office, Codes Officer Paul Mitnik hopes to arrange to use St. Bridget’s Center on Main Street, in North Vassalboro. The location will be announced once it is final.

Barnett described plans to build two new marijuana-growing buildings on Sherwood Lane, and two more on Old Meadow Lane near his current business. Both roads run off Riverside Drive. He intends to rent out the space, he said, perhaps an entire building to one tenant, perhaps half a building.

Residents from both areas voiced a variety of concerns about the proposals, and Brackett said the board had received emailed comments. The decision to hold public hearings was intended to give interested residents a chance to get their information and opinions on the record.

Issues raised included access for emergency vehicles and an adequate water supply for the fire department (required for commercial buildings, firefighter Michael Vashon said); the kind of bathroom facilities required by state plumbing regulations; odor control (odor from marijuana-growing operations is a common subject of complaint, State Representative Richard Bradstreet said); security; effects on nearby property values; and traffic.

After the Nov. 10 hearings, board members intend to review Barnett’s applications for completeness and, if they are voted complete, discuss whether they meet town ordinance requirements.

The other two Oct. 6 applications were from Susan Traylor, to expand a non-conforming building in the Webber Pond shoreland, and from Jeremy Soucy, to open a used-car business at 24 Webber Pond Road, at the junction with Riverside Drive.

Traylor had a 2018 permit that expired before work was started. The new application is for a smaller expansion, not toward the water nor toward neighbors, she said. Board members unanimously approved her permit.

Brackett made sure Soucy was aware of information needed for his full application.

VASSALBORO: Final plans for transfer station upgrade come before board

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen heard a variety of matters, some with potential costs, at their Oct. 1 meeting, including near-final plans for a redesign of the transfer station, junkyard and auto hobbyists’ permits, the fire department’s repeater problem and the future of the town’s Conservation Commission.

Engineer Al Hodsdon, of A. E. Hodsdon, in Waterville, presented the transfer station plan. He explained that it is a “minor upgrade” to the existing facility, not the more expansive – and expensive – redesign selectmen reviewed with a different firm a few years ago. The main goal is to improve traffic safety.

Part of the plan is a new exit onto Lombard Dam Road. Hodsdon said abutter William Spaulding is willing to discuss selling, leasing or granting a right-of-way over his land to provide space.

Hodsdon and selectmen agreed that he, Town Manager Mary Sabins, transfer station Manager George Hamar and Spaulding will work out details for a final plan. Board members are looking at including funding in the 2020-21 budget and expect no action until after the 2021 town meeting.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik presented a list of seven auto graveyard owners and four auto hobbyists who need town licenses to keep unregistered vehicles on their property; but he believed one person had moved enough vehicles so no license is needed. After a public hearing and on Mitnik’s recommendation, selectmen approved permits for the following, some with conditions.

Auto graveyards: James Cogley, 510 Main Street (Ron’s Parts Inc.); Dale Clement, 471 Taber Hill Road (Bondo’s Garage); Bill Pullen, 163 South Stanley Hill Road (Freddie’s Service Center); Stanley Garnett, 1616 North Belfast Avenue (Garnett’s Motors); Olin Charette, 1499 Riverside Drive (Week’s Mills Garage); Voit Ritch, Route 3 (Autowerkes); Roger Pomerleau, 1702 Riverside Drive (RAP).

Hobbyists: Keith Lemieux, 79 Priest Hill Road; James Jurdak, 7 Baker Road; Robert Dore, 919 Church Hill Road; Mathew Farrington, 321 Holman Day Road.

Voting at school; 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Vassalboro’s Nov. 3 voting will be in the Vassalboro Community School gymnasium, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Town Manager Mary Sabins said voters will have access only to the gymnasium; the school’s front door will be locked. No public restroom will be available. Voters will be asked to wear masks and to observe social distancing.

No students will use the school Nov. 3 nor Wednesday, Nov. 4, when the gymnasium will be thoroughly cleaned, Sabins said.

Mitnik said anyone with more than two unregistered, unserviceable vehicles on his or her property needs a license. An auto graveyard or junkyard has to be a business, he said, and a hobbyist should be restoring vehicles. The annual fees are $50 for a junkyard and $25 for a hobbyist’s collection, he said.

Board Chairman John Melrose, and more vehemently Dore, said many residents have more than two unregistered and unused vehicles in their dooryards. Mitnik invited them to give him addresses, saying he is unaware of any, but does not have time to cruise around looking for them. Melrose recommended Mitnik and Dore follow up with Sabins.

Firefighter Michael Vashon told selectmen the repeater on Nelson Road is no longer working. Vassalboro and China bought it jointly about 20 years ago, he said. Its role is to forward calls from the Augusta dispatch center to individual firefighters’ phones or pagers.

For now, he said, a leased replacement is in use. He does not know how long it will be available. South China Fire Chief Richard Morse told him the South China department is experimenting using the facility at the China town office; therefore Vashon does not know whether China will again share the cost of a permanent replacement.

Nor does he have a firm replacement cost – he offered selectmen an estimate of $12,000 minimum, with another $7,000 or more in future software updating costs.

Vashon hopes to have additional information at the selectmen’s Oct. 15 meeting.

East Vassalboro resident Holly Weidner told selectmen the Conservation Commission is currently leaderless. A meeting is planned later this fall, she said, and she hopes enough interested volunteers will revive the organization. Melrose said it was created by town ordinance, so selectmen cannot eliminate it.

In other business Oct. 1, selectmen heard Susan Little’s request for a new streetlight in East Vassalboro. Sabins said she had called the town’s Central Maine Power Company connection, who would look into the situation once the chaos caused by the Sept. 30 wind and rain cleared up.

Melrose said work continues on the major Cross Hill Road culvert replacement. In-water work was completed before Oct. 1, as required by state regulations, he said.

On Sabins’ recommendation, board members plan to review Calderwood Engineering’s draft specifications for the Gray Road culvert work at their second October meeting, rescheduled to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Sabins announced a $5,000 election grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to help cover extra costs associated with coronavirus precautions before, during and after the Nov. 3 election.

The manager had two less happy reports.

The most recent quarterly revaluation is done, she said; assessors reviewed properties in one-fourth of Vassalboro to see where values should be lowered (for depreciation or removal of taxable property) or raised (for improvements and additions). The review had increased valuation by less than $70,000, creating a minimal increase in tax revenue. She suggested selectmen consider setting aside funds for a full town-wide revaluation.

Sabins also said Vassalboro children had shared transportation with Windsor children (and some from two other towns), and one Windsor youngster had tested positive for Covd-19. Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is on the case, she said. (The Oct. 1 issue of the Kennebec Journal included a report on Windsor school officials’ action.)

Melrose announced a ribbon-cutting for ReVision Energy‘s solar project at 135 East Ridge Road in Skowhegan, scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 12. The Town of Vassalboro and Vassalboro Community School have contracted to buy power from the solar panels, along with Dover-Foxcroft, Rangeley, Rockland and Topsham.

A ReVision press release says solar power will cover almost 85 percent of each municipality’s energy needs for town buildings. The panels are expected to last up to 40 years and, because the power cost will be lower than market prices, to start saving money for participants in 2021.

Selectmen rearrange schedules to work around holidays

Vassalboro selectmen have rearranged their meeting schedule for most of the rest of the year, primarily to work around holidays.

The next regular selectmen’s meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.

The meeting that should have been the evening of Oct. 29 is rescheduled to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28. It is to be followed by a tour of Vassalboro’s two fire stations, arranged with Fire Chief Walker Thompson and scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

In November, selectmen will meet as planned at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, but will skip the second meeting, which would have fallen on Thanksgiving.

And they plan to meet only once in December, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, to avoid a Christmas Eve meeting.

Board members can always call a special meeting if they need to.

Historic alewife restoration initiative hits another milestone

The China Lake Alewife Restoration Initiative team, from left to right, Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers; Ray Breton, owner of the Olde Mill property; Nate Gray of Maine Department of Marine Resources; and Matt Streeter, project manager for Maine Rivers and the China Lake Alewife Restoration Initiative. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

Six dams in six years — that was the goal, says Matt Streeter, project manager for the China Lake Alewife Restoration Initiative, and it’s a goal they are likely to meet — and maybe even surpass.

The team invited me down to Box Mill Dam, behind the Olde Mill, in Vassalboro, to view their progress on the new fishway currently under construction. Once complete, it will be another milestone on the way to opening up migratory fish passage into China Lake for the first time in nearly two centuries.

It’s been a long haul for the project team, which is headed up by the nonprofit Maine Rivers, working in collaboration with the towns of China and Vassalboro, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Kennebec Water District, the Sabasticook Regional Land Trust and the China Region Lakes Alliance.

“It takes a lot of work,” says Landis Hudson, executive director for Maine Rivers. “We have created a big, solid team to work on this project, and we have been in communication for six years to get this far, but it’s taken a strong team and a clear vision of the future. We’re not done yet, but we can see the finish line.”

Originally, there were six dams along Outlet Stream blocking fish passage into China Lake. Depending on what was appropriate for the location, the group has either dismantled the dam or built a fishway to allow migratory fish a means around the obstacle. Last year, they completed a fishway at Ladd Dam, in Vassalboro. In the years prior, they dismantled Lombard and Masse da1ms. This year they are building a fishway Ôat Box Mill Dam, which leaves just Morneau Dam and the dam at the head of Outlet Stream (behind the Vassalboro Historical Society) to finish.

Although alewives have been annually stocked in China Lake for years, the team’s work will dramatically increase the lake’s migratory fish population.

“The population is going to go up significantly,” explains Nate Gray, of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Gray has been responsible for stocking alewives in China Lake since the beginning, starting in 1997. “We stock about 25,0000 [adult alewives] a year,” he says, “[but] we know China Lake is good for about a million fish.”

Construction of a fishway continues at the Box Mill Dam, in North Vassalboro. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

Maine Rivers executive director, Landis Hudson, elaborates: “It’s great that DMR has been jump-starting the system by putting those fish in,” she says, “but the idea is to let the system do its own thing — [to] have a self-sustaining population that can make their way, essentially, from the ocean up to China Lake on their own volition.

“What we’re doing is bringing a big burst of native species back in that will – obviously – be good for the stream,” continues Hudson, “but it will also have an echo effect throughout this system and then further out into the Gulf of Maine. So, it will strengthen the food web for fish, birds, and other animals.”

Some people have questioned why these dams have not been repurposed to generate electrical power, but Hudson says that idea isn’t practical. “Sometimes people have this idea that every single dam in the state could be producing hydropower,” she says, “[but] none of the dams along Outlet Stream are particularly viable now. They were used for gristmills; they were used for saw mills — old-fashioned power. Those times are gone. So, we’ve been basically working with what’s here, trying to fix the stream and make it less ‘broken’ — bringing back the fish — but the idea of some imaginary hydropower project is not viable anymore.”

The Alewife Restoration Initiative has worked with local landowners to accomplish their goals. Ray Breton, owner of the Olde Mill property, has collaborated closely with the team to ensure the current fishway at Box Mill – and last year’s Ladd Dam fishway – were built without sacrificing the natural beauty of the environment.

“It’s been great,” says Breton. “I had some recommendations, in order to add to the park, so this all blends in and looks like Mother Nature. They were good to work with. They could have said, ‘No,’ but they didn’t. Everything I’ve asked for they put in.”

Hudson agrees. “People come here for weddings, or to have their high school pictures taken,” she says, referring to the current project at Box Mill, “so we’ve tried to make plans which integrate that into it, and [keep] the aesthetics of the waterfall. It’s not just fish passage. It’s fish passage and a park.”

Project manager Matt Streeter adds, “This is going to be the place where we are going to encourage people to come look at the fish run in the stream. There’s going to be a nice brick walkway all the way around it, and safety railings, so people will have a good view of the fishway.”

The team is aiming to complete construction at Box Mill by October. Next year, they will tackle Morneau Dam or Outlet Dam — or maybe both. It all depends on the funding.

“There is no simple way to do it, and there is no cheap way to do it,” says Hudson. “If there was a simpler or cheaper way to do it, we would have done it already.”

Contact the author at ericwaustin@gmail.com.

China planners decide to prepare separate solar ordinance

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members decided at their Sept. 22 meeting they should prepare a separate ordinance to set requirements for solar developments, instead of trying to amend the existing land use ordinance.

Attorney Thomas Federle, of Federle Law, in Portland, has been representing SunRaise Investments as the company got approval for two solar projects near Route 3. He found that China’s lot coverage requirement, under which solar panels are counted as structures, limits the size of a solar array.

China ordinances say that structures cannot cover more than 20 percent of a lot in the rural district or 15 percent in shoreland, resource protection and stream protection districts. The purpose is to maintain natural ground that absorbs rainwater and thereby to limit run-off that could carry unwanted nutrients into water bodies.

At the planning board’s Aug. 25 meeting, Federle and board members discussed amending the current ordinance to add a definition of solar array and a provision that solar panels would not count in lot coverage calculations.

Federle’s main point was the ground under solar panels is maintained as a meadow. The grass will absorb water dripping from the panels.

Board members and Codes Officer Bill Butler were sympathetic to his view. But by Sept. 22, they were seeing complications and possible unintended consequences from suggested amendments.

One issue is whether a proposed change, in whatever form, should apply everywhere in town. Butler suggested shoreland, stream protection and resource protection areas need more protection than rural areas.

After board members decided they would prefer a separate ordinance, Federle offered to collect samples from other Maine towns for their guidance.

Any new ordinance would need approval by China voters before becoming effective.

The Sept. 22 meeting was entirely virtual. The motion to adjourn included a provision that the next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 13, will be in-person in the town office.

China selectmen are also scheduled to meet Oct. 13, because their usual Monday meeting, which would have been Oct. 12, falls on the Columbus Day holiday, when the town office will be closed.

‘Swap shop’ temporarily closed at China transfer station

Empty shelves in the “Swap Shop” at the China Transfer Station (photo by Karen Hatch)

by Mary Grow

China selectmen agreed to two temporary closings at their Sept. 28 meeting, one their own doing and one not.

At the transfer station, the free for the taking building, sometimes called the swap shop, will be closed indefinitely, effective immediately. Reopening will depend on state guidelines concerning Covid-19 safety measures. Selectmen were concerned about the possibility of people leaving items carrying the virus and about the number of people in the building at the same time, even though it is well ventilated.

At the head of China Lake’s east basin, Causeway Street will be closed between the China Baptist Church parking lot and the boat landing, beginning the week of Oct. 12 and lasting for eight to 10 weeks. During the closure, McGee Construction will install protective shoreline barriers and a walkway along the north shore of the lake.

Another selectboard decision was to give the old roto phase at the transfer station to the Town of Vassalboro, with Vassalboro employees to come and get it. Town Manager Becky Hapgood said the roto phase is 25 to 30 years old, no longer needed in China and valued at a maximum of $200.

Asked what a roto phase is, Hapgood replied, “It’s something that does something with the power.”

Selectman Wayne Chadwick provided a more technical explanation. A roto phase converts incoming electricity from single phase to the three-phase power transfer station machinery now uses. Months ago, China officials arranged with Central Maine Power Company to provide the station with three-phase power directly, without needing a converter.

Selectmen made two appointments. James Lane will become China’s second Animal Control Officer, so an ACO will be available when Kim Bolduc-Bartlett takes time off. Lane served in the past as China’s police officer.

Town Clerk Angela Nelson will be China’s agent for the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles, meaning she will handle vehicle registrations.

Hapgood announced that Codes Officer Bill Butler is retiring, effective Dec. 1. She planned to start advertising for a successor within days.

The Sept. 28 meeting was preceded by two public hearings. The first was the annual state-required hearing on state-recommended amendments to the appendices to the town’s General Assistance Ordinance. The second was on the two local ordinance amendments to be on the Nov. 3 ballot – they are posted under Elections on the China website, Hapgood said.

Neither hearing drew any public comments or questions. During the meeting selectmen unanimously approved the general assistance amendments.

The evening’s longest discussion was over Hapgood’s request for an early performance review, before Nov. 3 local elections bring in one or more new selectmen who have not worked with her. Appointed to succeed Dennis Heath in mid-July, Hapgood is on six-months’ probationary status, scheduled for review in January 2021.

“I want to know if I’m meeting the needs of the community, if I’m serving you well and taking care of what needs to be done,” Hapgood said.

After talking about the time between mid-July and the election, and the time between the election and mid-January, and when the following review would be due (Hapgood said normally employees’ reviews are done shortly before the June 30 end of the fiscal year), board members decided to wait until January.

Chairman Ronald Breton said any new selectman who thought he or she did not know Hapgood’s work well enough by January could decline to participate in the review. And meanwhile, he told Hapgood, any board member not satisfied with her job performance could tell her so individually.

China voters will elect three selectmen from a field of five on Nov. 3. Breton and Janet Preston seek re-election; three newcomers on the ballot are Blane Casey, Brent Chesley and Jeanne Marquis. Donna Mills-Stevens is not running for another term; Irene Belanger’s and Wayne Chadwick’s terms end in 2021.

The next China selectmen’s meeting should be Monday, Oct. 12, but was rescheduled to Tuesday, Oct. 13, to avoid the Columbus Day holiday. The next regular planning board meeting is scheduled the same evening. Breton said he and Planning Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo will resolve the conflict.

Trying to make sense out of absentee ballot applications

by Roland D. Hallee

With the push by municipal officials encouraging voters to cast their ballots early, and the aggressive campaigns taken by political candidates to get-out-the-vote, much confusion has surfaced as to the process of voting absentee.

At the head of the confusion is the fact that many households are receiving multiple unsolicited applications in the mail.

According to area election officials, individual voters are receiving multiple absentee ballot applications.

Michelle Flewelling, Fairfield town manager, stated, “There are two registered voters at my address, we have received eight absentee ballot requests in the mail so far.”

China Town Clerk Angela Nelson pointed out, “We have received multiple absentee ballot applications from individuals. When this happens, we write ‘Duplicate Submission’ on the additional requests and staple them to the first processed application. If residents are receiving these additional applications in the mail they can simply destroy them.”

Vassalboro Town Clerk Cathy Coyne stressed, “Once you have applied for an absentee ballot, toss all other requests. You can only apply for one absentee ballot.”

Patti Dubois, Waterville city clerk, informed the public that if a voter receives multiple applications, “Do not call your municipal clerk, since these mailings are coming from outside civic/political groups. If a voter has already submitted an absentee ballot request form, disregard any additional ones received in the mail.” According to Dubois, to check on the status of an absentee ballot, go to https://apps.web.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/ballotstatus.pl.

Flewelling added, “If you should happen to fill [out a second ballot] and mail it to your town office, the second application will be denied. Since you are only allowed to receive one set of ballots per election, and all absentee requests are processed through the state of Maine, Secretary of State computer system, it will be obvious to the election clerks that more than one request has been submitted.”

In most towns, absentee ballot applications can be found on the community’s website. If you have not applied for an absentee ballot, and receive one in the mail, it may be filled out and returned to your municipal office.

Once a person receives their ballots, which will be mailed on or about October 3, there are multiple ways to cast the ballot. They can be mailed back to their respective town offices; they can be hand carried to the municipal offices, or, in some communities, placed in the convenient ballot collection boxes located outside their town offices. They should not be brought to the polls on election day.

In Waterville, the drop box is located outside the main entrance to city hall. In the town of Fairfield, the ballot collection box is located at the town office near the handicap accessible ramp. In China, the drop box, once it arrives, according to Nelson, will be located outside, in front of the town office.

According to Flewelling, should voters who have applied for absentee ballots not receive them in the mail by October 15, they should contact their respective town office.

But the COVID-19 pandemic will cause other election day problems. Since many people will insist on in-person voting at the polls, state CDC guidelines will be observed.

According to Dubois, “In Waterville, anyone who waits to vote on election day should plan for long lines. Due to social distancing requirements and gathering limits that are capped at 50, including staff and voters, there will only be approximately 25 voters within the voting area at one time.”

Voters should also be aware that eligible voters must be allowed to vote on election day whether they choose to wear a mask or not.

All the town officials stressed that voters are asked to have patience with the election workers who are all doing the best they can under the challenging conditions.

The polling places are: In China, in the portable building at 571 Lakeview Dr., behind the town office, from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.;

In Vassalboro, according to Coyne, at the Vassalboro Community School, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. In Fairfield, at the Fairfield Community Center, 61 Water St., from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; in Waterville, Waterville Junior High School, 100 West River Rd., 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Absentee voting notice

Note to residents of China:

Various organizations are sending absentee ballot request forms to residents of the town, with a return address of the Town Clerk’s Office. These notices were not sent out by the Town of China. If you have already submitted an absentee ballot request, you may disregard these forms. For any concerns please call us at 445-2014.

VASSALBORO: All going well with school reopening

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Community School (VCS) has started the year well, administrators told School Board members as they met Sept. 15, at the beginning of the second week of classes. Safety regulations and educational programming both work well, so far.

Board members’ reaction included vetoing interscholastic sports – soccer, specifically, Principal Megan Allen said – this fall, for fear Vassalboro students could be exposed to coronavirus through close contact with students from other schools.

Allen said of the 400 students enrolled at VCS, 81 learn entirely from home; 166 attend on “Blue Days”; and 153 attend on “White Days.” The school calendar (available on the vcsvikings website) shows which days are which color.

Within each day’s group, students are further divided so that each classroom is a separate cohort, Allen said. The division means sometimes as few as half a dozen students spend all their time together, at recess, at lunch and in class.

Allen said small classes let teachers emphasize individual teaching, especially important after last spring’s disruption caused some students to miss parts of their education.

School officials are able to monitor students who are learning remotely, Allen said, and know which ones are not signing in or not turning in assignments.

She added that VCS has a number of new staff members, and they are “the most impressive group of new staff” in her three years here.

New staff members approved at the Sept. 15 meeting include third-grade teacher Ashlee Francis and math specialist Erica Millett.

Thanks to a federal program started in response to the coronavirus emergency, VCS offers free breakfasts and lunches to all students, regardless of family income. Parents need to fill out an application form, Allen said.

Students who will be learning remotely the next day are entitled to take meals home.

Mary Boyle, one of several administrators in the former AOS (Alternative Educational Structure) 92 who continue to work with member schools in Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow, listed other state and federal grants Vassalboro has received.

Will Backman, former AOS technology coordinator, said distance learning is working well, except for the day the internet for the Central Maine area was down most of the morning. He, Allen and other administrators praised the cooperation and mutual support that has helped solve problems with the new system.

In addition to the separate learning groups, other safety measures include arrows on floors to direct indoor traffic, blue Viking heads on the sidewalks to separate students in lines outdoors, and a new waiting room for the nurse’s office.

Nurse MaryAnn Fortin is glad to have the waiting room. She told School Board members some, but not enough, parents are checking their children’s temperatures before driving them to school or letting them board the school bus.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said VCS, Waterville and Winslow have an agreement with Maine General Medical Center “just in case” school officials should need medical help.

The soccer discussion arose out of a usually routine School Board approval of co-curricular activities. Assistant Principal Greg Hughes said he was “really nervous about this fall,” because he is not sure other schools are being careful enough.

The Maine Principals’ Association has authorized regional soccer matches, Hughes said. Nonetheless, he proposed VCS students not participate, instead working on skills and holding in-school matches.

Board members spoke of the importance students place on sports, including competition with other schools. But in the interest of safety, they voted unanimously to, as Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur said, “keep it in-house” and not play against other schools.

Hughes plans to survey students who are learning entirely remotely and therefore are not part of any in-school cohort and will find a way to include those who want to participate.

The next Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Oct. 20.