School year 2020: Difficult choices for parents

by Jeanne Marquis

This month, parents are making a difficult decision: how to educate their children in the era of Covid-19. Do they opt to send their kids to public schools? If so, do they choose in-person or remote learning, or possibly a hybrid of the two? Do they choose a smaller private school if they have funds. Or, do they homeschool their children themselves, choosing from a variety of online programs available? The answers are personal and the reasons why the families select which method of education they choose is as varied as each individual family.

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) published a Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction which includes the six requirements for protecting health and safety:

  1. Daily symptom self-check for students and staff before coming to school.
  2. Physical distancing.
  3. Masks.
  4. Proper hand hygiene.
  5. Personal protective equipment.
  6. An isolation plan if staff or student becomes ill.

Public schools in the area have been planning since July to follow the guidelines and have surveyed area families on their intentions and preferences between in-person or remote learning. Every step of the day has to be thought through carefully by the administrators and staff to keep in compliance with the DOE framework.

The buses, according to the RSU #18 website, will have assigned seating, fewer passengers and frequent cleanings. Parents will be asked to drive students if possible to free up the bus seats for social distancing.

Facilities at the schools will be adapted to help students and staff practice illness prevention. Drinking fountains will be replaced at some schools with bottle refill stations and students will be allowed to bring individual water bottles. Where possible, waste baskets will be replaced with touchless versions to keep clean hands sanitary after washing.

Even lunch time at school will be adapted by the nutrition workers adding appropriate protocol. Additional time will be allowed for hand washing prior to meals. Single-serve packets will be provided instead of sharing condiments. More room will be added for seating and serving lines will be socially distanced.

For specific changes at your students’ schools, check the school websites frequently:

https://www.msad49.org/
Albion, Benton, Fairfield, Clinton Lawrence High School and Junior High.

https://rsu18.org/
Atwood Primary, China Primary and Middle Schools, Belgrade Central, James H. Bean Messalonskee Middle and High School, Williams Elementary.

https://www.svrsu.org/o/whes
Chelsea Elementary,Sheepscot Valley, Palermo Consolidated School, Somerville Elementary, Whitefield Elementary, Windsor Elementary.

https://www.vcsvikings.org/
Vassalboro Community School.

For those families who have chosen to homeschool, Homeschoolers of Maine at homeschoolersofmaine.org is an excellent resource to get you started. According to their website, a letter of your intention to homeschool is due to your superintendent of schools by September 1, 2020. This organization provides information on record keeping and assessment of your students progress.

Kelly Pillsbury to lead local scouting district

Priscilla and Scott Adams, of China, of Troop #479, and Kelly Pillsbury. Scott Adams presented the report of the nominating committee during the annual meeting. (contributed photos)

Kelly Pillsbury, of Benton, was elected to serve as the Kennebec Valley District chairman on June 10 during the annual meeting of the Scouting District Committee. The meeting was held virtually and at the Viles Arboretum where social distancing was in effect.

The Kennebec Valley District Committee is comprised of volunteer Scouting leaders tasked with growing and delivering quality Scouting programs in Lincoln, Knox, Kennebec, Somerset and Franklin counties. Pillsbury is the top volunteer Scouting leader of the district and her job is to motivate a talented team of people. District chairs preside at district committee meetings and represent the district on the council executive board. The district committee includes subcommittees for Scouting Activities and Program, Advancement and Recognition, Camping, Fundraising including Friends of Scouting and Popcorn sales, Health and Safety, Marketing, Membership for new Scouting units and membership growth, Nominating Committee, Training, etc.

“Kelly brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the job,” said Ryan Poulin, of Sidney, who served on the nominating committee that made the selection. “I am anxious to see the great mountain tops she will lead Kennebec Valley District Scouts to during her term.”

Pillsbury has a BS from the University of Maine in business management and an MBA from Thomas College, in Waterville. She is employed by Maine Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency, in Augusta. Pillsbury joined Scouting in 1995 as a Tiger Cub parent in Pack #471, Fairfield, and has held several positions including Advancement Chairman, Den Leader, Pack Committee Chairman and Assistant Cubmaster. Kelly joined the Kennebec Valley District Committee in 2004, serving on several committees and as committee chairman in 2009-2010. She also served as the Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner 2011-2012.

She earned the Commissioner Key and was awarded the District Award of Merit- the highest award Scouting can bestow at the district-level to a volunteer. Kelly also had the honor of serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster for the Pine Tree Council contingent troop that attended the National Scout Jamboree in 2005. She has also served on the council’s national jamboree committee in 2010 as well as Maine Jam program staff in 2007 and 2013. Pllsbury has also completed the Greenwood Ranger training, University of Scouting and Wood Badge. She has taught several University of Scouting courses and served on Wood Badge staff as Troop guide, quartermaster, course director and mentor. Kelly, who is also a Vigil Honor member of the Brotherhood of Honor Campers, also serves as Troop Committee chairman for Troop #479 in China.

Outside of Scouting, Kelly is active with the Waterville Elks Lodge #905 where she currently serves as chairman of the Antler Youth Committee and served as Exalted Ruler in 2018-2019. She was awarded Officer of the Year 2016-17, Making a Difference Special Citation 2018-19 and Mother of the Year in 2019. She is married to Bob Pillsbury and is proud mother of two sons, Richard and Connor, a daughter-in-law, Lindsey and a grandson, Silas.

The members of the District Committee also selected Bruce Rueger, of Waterville, and Charles Matthews, of Fairfield, to serve as vice chairmen. Both are former district cheirmen. “Kelly is an outgoing, gregarious, knowledgeable Scouter,” Rueger said. “She has a wealth of experience in Scouting and the community. I have worked with her in the past and look forward to doing so in the future.” Matthews echoed those sentiments. “I have known Kelly for many years. She was a committee member in my troop. I asked Kelly to take on the District chairman when I gave up the position in 2008,” Matthews said. He had served as district chairman since 2003. “Kelly is a very dedicated Scouter and I feel that she will do a great job as district chairman.”

Pillsbury’s term begins immediately. She thanked her predecessors Butch Dawbin, of West Gardiner, and Travis Robins, of Augusta, who had served as interim chairman each for several months while the nominating committee did its work.

Local municipal offices set to re-open

Vassalboro town office

ALBION

The Albion Town Office is open regular business hours. Monday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Thursday 12 p.m – 6 p.m. Limit 2 customers in the building.

BENTON

The Benton Town Office is currently open to the public Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Limit two customers in office at a time.

CHINA

The China Town Office is currently open for walk-up service Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

FAIRFIELD

The Fairfield Town Office will be re-opening to the public on Tuesday, May 26. We will be limiting members of the public allowed in the building to no more than two at a time. The hours will be shortened to 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Masks, gloves and own pens required. Residents may call for an appointment or curb side service if they are unable to meet the PPE requirements. The Lawrence Public Library is working on a plan to re-open on June 1. This plan is still being finalized but may entail no public in the building, pre-ordered books, shortened times to sign out new releases, curbside pick-up, and seven-day quarantine of returned materials.

PALERMO

The Town of Palermo is discussing plans to re-open but nothing has been finalized.

VASSALBORO

The Vassalboro Town Office will re-open to the public on Monday, June 1, at 8 a.m., with a few restrictions.

All town office visitors will be asked to wear a face mask and that no more than two customers enter the lobby at the same time, all while practicing social distancing. If possible, do not bring friends or family members with you. It is understood that some will need to have children with them. Hand sanitizers have been installed and residents are encouraged to use them when entering the building. Plexiglas has been installed at work stations and people are asked to bring their own pens.

Remember that most transactions can be done online by visiting Vassalboro.net, scroll to the bottom and click on the purple house. The public restroom will be closed until further notice.

WATERVILLE

All departments at City Hall, in Waterville, will re-open on Monday, June 1, at 8 a.m., with social distancing requirements in place.

UPDATE: This story has been updated for additional town office information.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Winslow, Benton, Clinton

A 19th century photo of the Clinton schoolhouse.

by Mary Grow

Winslow is the next town north of Vassalboro along the east shore of the Kennebec River. According to Henry Kingsbury’s History of Kennebec County, its location was determined by the junction of the Kennebec with the smaller Sebasticook River, as a river junction was a convenient meeting place for groups from different areas.

When the first white settlers reached the area is unclear. Kingsbury cites a 1719 survey showing a building on the south side of the Sebasticook and east shore of the Kennebec that is identified as a trading post built in 1653.

By 1675, despite the earlier resumption of fighting between Natives and settlers, there were two trading posts at the rivers’ junction. Kingsbury surmises they did not survive a 1676 Native attack, although he found evidence suggesting at least one building was still standing in 1692.

In 1754, the Massachusetts General Court ordered a fort to be built at the Sebasticook-Kennebec junction for protection against the French and the Natives. Massachusetts Governor William Shirley personally chose the site, which commanded both rivers and could interrupt water traffic between tribes and with Québec.

General John Winslow, described in Wikipedia as a major-general of militia, was sent from Massachusetts with 800 men to build the fort. He superintended such a speedy job that early in September, a 100-man garrison under Captain William Lithgow moved in. Winslow’s plan did not suit Lithgow, Kingsbury says, and was substantially amended.

The main building was supported by two separate two-story blockhouses, each equipped with cannon. One later became a house for a man named Ezekiel Pattee and was moved down the river. In 1791, the list of resident taxpayers in Winslow, per Kingsbury, included four Pattees, Ezekiel, Benjamin, William and Daniel.

(Ezekiel Pattee is probably the man found on line who was born Sept. 3, 1732, in Gloucester, Massachusetts; on May 24, 1760, married Margaret Harwood, born at Fort Halifax in 1740; had a son, also named Ezekiel, born on Feb. 26, 1775; and died Nov. 24, 1813, in Winslow, Maine.)

Fort Halifax in 1754.

Kingsbury commends the Town of Winslow for its efforts to preserve the remaining Fort Halifax blockhouse.

Winslow, like Augusta and Vassalboro, was originally laid out on both sides of the Kennebec. Originally called Ticonic (there are various spellings), the Native word for the river junction and the rapids just upstream, and then Kingsfield Plantation, it was incorporated on April 26, 1771, as Winslow, one of the first four towns in Kennebec County (the others were Hallowell, Vassalboro and Winthrop).

The name of the new town honored General John Winslow.

As in other Kennebec River towns, the early survey by John McKechnie (who was also a doctor) laid out some long narrow lots, but the majority are only about three times as long as they are wide.

The east-side (Winslow) plan reproduced in the History of Kennebec County shows lots along the east shores of the Kennebec and Sebasticook and out to the 15-mile east boundary, but none in the northeastern triangle between the two rivers.

The 1771 Winslow included what is now Waterville and Oakland. Kingsbury believes the settlement on the west side of the Kennebec, now Waterville, grew faster than the east side. His evidence includes E. A. Paine’s 1791 population count of 779, of whom Paine believed only about 300 were on the east side of the river.

One of those Winslow-side inhabitants, according to Ernest Marriner’s Kennebec Yesterdays, was the town’s first lawyer, George Warren. In 1791 Warren went to Boston, where he petitioned the Massachusetts General Court, unsuccessfully, for approval to hold a lottery to raise money to build a bridge across the Sebasticook. Because he had business in southern Maine as well, he chose to make the Portland to Boston leg of his trip by land, Marriner says.

Massachusetts law, in the 1700s and as late as 1815, required every town to raise taxes to support religion (meaning the Congregational church, usually). Marriner says many Maine towns could not afford to comply, and lists Winslow as one of the more recalcitrant.

Twice, he says, the town was threatened with legal action if its officials continued to ignore the law. In 1772, they voted to pay for one month’s worth of services; in 1773, they agreed to pay a man named Deliverance Smith for 12 Sundays. That year, too, Rev. John Murray came inland from Boothbay for a service at Fort Halifax, where the children he baptized included three of John McKechnie’s.

In 1774, Rev. Jacob Bailey, of Pownalborough (now Dresden), preached at Fort Halifax. (When the Revolution broke out, Bailey remained loyal to the British monarchy and eventually had to leave the country for Nova Scotia.) The next year, Marriner says, Winslow voted not to pay for any preaching.

In 1794, Marriner says, Winslow hired a clergyman named Joshua Cushing to settle as the town’s minister. Marriner describes Cushing as a Revolutionary War veteran and a Harvard classmate of John Quincy Adams who became a community leader and served in the Massachusetts legislature and in Congress.

Maine towns had trouble complying with another Massachusetts law that required an elementary school for a town with 60 families and a grammar school if there were 200 families. In 1784, 1788 and 1789, Winslow voted no public funding for schools, Marriner says.

By 1795, there was discussion at town meeting of creating two towns divided by the river. A June 23, 1802, legislative act incorporated the Town of Waterville and defined it as the part of Winslow on the west side of the Kennebec.

The Conforth homestead, in Benton, in this 19th century photo.

Benton, Winslow’s northern neighbor along the river, was the southern part of Clinton until 1842. Kingsbury mentions two deeds from the Plymouth Company in the 1760s, but he dates the first settlement inside the present town boundaries to 1775 or thereabouts, when two Irish emigrants named George Fitzgerald and David Gray cleared land about a mile north of the present Benton Station (the cluster of buildings at the end of the bridge across the Kennebec.

Later settlers moved farther north along the Kennebec and took up land on the west side of the Sebasticook.

In 1790 or earlier, Kingsbury said, the area that is now Benton and Clinton became Hancock Plantation. There were then 278 residents, the majority in the southern end that is now Benton. The first town meeting was held on April 20, 1795; Kingsbury lists the town officials then elected.

By the 1797 town meeting, Kingsbury wrote, there were eight school districts, again mostly in the Benton area, and 166 students; the town voted a $300 tax for education.

After four decades of growth, on March 16, 1842, the by-then-Maine, rather than Massachusetts, legislature approved an act dividing Clinton and creating a new town named Sebasticook. Kingsbury provides no information on who wanted the separation or why.

On March 4, 1850, town meeting voters told selectmen to choose a new name – again, Kingsbury offers no reason. The selectmen chose Benton, in honor of Missouri Democratic U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. In September 1850 the Town of Benton first appeared in town meeting records.

The history of Clinton, the northernmost Kennebec County town, overlaps with the history of Benton until the two were separated in 1842.

Settlement along the Kennebec that began in the southern (Benton) area spread north up the river. Kingsbury lists Pishon’s Ferry (or Pishon Ferry, shown on 20th-century maps opposite the Hinckley section of Fairfield) as the east end of the ferry owned by Charles Pishon, who moved there before 1800. At least three other families began farming in the area, the first before 1790.

Clinton developed an early second center along the Sebasticook, an area that became the present downtown. Kingsbury names six families settled in the area before 1800.

Several sources say Clinton was named after DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), a United States Senator, mayor of New York City and the sixth governor of New York, largely responsible for the building of the Erie Canal. However, the Wikipedia entry on Clinton, Maine, says that information is false: the town was named after DeWitt Clinton’s uncle, George Clinton (1739-1812), the first governor of New York and the fourth vice-president of the United States, serving under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

MAJOR SOURCES:

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed. Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 1892

Marriner, Ernest Kennebec Yesterdays 1954.

Web sites, miscellaneous

NEXT: Moving upstream from Augusta on the west bank of the Kennebec, earliest history of Sidney, Waterville and Fairfield.

[See also: Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta & Vassalboro]

Area roads earmarked for improvements in 2020-21

by Roland D. Hallee

The Maine Department of Transportation has announced plans for road improvements in the China – Vassalboro – Winslow area, in 2020-2021.

For 2020, the work will include Rte. 137, from China to Winslow, with the work to begin at Rte. 202 and extending west 6.14 miles to Rte. 137B, then extend north 1.04 miles to Rte. 201. This will include overlay.

From China to Vassalboro, along the Neck Rd., Webber Pond Rd., Bog Rd., and Stanley Hill Road. That will begin 1.39 miles north of Village Street and extend north 5.65 miles to 1.14 miles north of the Gray Road. And beginning 0.21 of a mile north of Preble Hill Rd. and extending north 2.4 miles to Timber Oaks Dr. This will include highway rehabilitation.

In China, Rte. 202, a large culvert improvement located .17 of a mile north of the south intersection of Pond Rd.

Vassalboro, Rte. 32, beginning 1.14 miles north of Gray Road and extending north .73 of a mile. Includes highway rehabilitation.

In 2021, the Stanley Hill Rd., in China and Vassalboro, beginning .02 of a mile from Rte. 32 and extending east 6.21 miles. This will include a light capital paving.

Oak Grove Rd., Vassalboro, beginning at Rte. 201 and extending northeast 3.12 miles to Rte. 32, light capital paving.

In Vassalboro, Webber Pond and Bog roads, beginning at Rte. 201 and extending northeast 8.03 miles to Rte. 32.

Stanley Hill Road, beginning .02 of a mile from Rte. 32 and extending east 6.21 miles, light capital paving.

The local roads assistance in China for fiscal year 2020 will be $54,896.

The department reported maintenance accomplishments in 2019, specifically recorded to China, that included six drainage structures cleaned; 4.6 miles of shoulder repair; 81.7 miles of shoulder mowing; one bridge washed; 1,449 linear feet of backhoe ditching; 205 miles of striping applied; 92.9 miles of shoulder herbicide applied; 13.8 tons of patch applied; five tons of shim applied.

Also, 13 trees removed; one emergency event response; 154 linear feet of guardrail or fence maintained; 1,722.6 tons of hot mix paving; two drainage structures intalled or replaced; 21.4 miles of litter and debris removed; 12.9 miles of shoulder graded; 452 square feet of pavement legend applied; one underwater inspection performed; 896 linear feet of shoulder rebuilt; 54.3 miles of shoulder sweeping; and six person hours of traffic signal maintenance.

Local road assistance to Vassalboro for fiscal year 2020 is $66,916.

Maintenance accomplishments specific to Vassalboro in 2019 included: 34.8 miles of shoulder litter and debris removal; one emergency event response; 32 linear feet of bridge joints repaired or replaced; 25.1 miles of striping applied; 4,292 linear feet of shoulder rebuilt; 58.5 shoulder miles of sweeping; 205 linear feet of backhoe ditching; seven drainage structures installed or replaced; 57 miles of shoulder mowing; four bridges washed; 22 trees removed.

Also, five tons of shim applied; two drainage structures cleaned; 16 miles of shoulder graded; 265 linear feet of bridge rail repaired or replaced; 13.6 tons of patch applied; and 34.8 shoulder miles of herbicide applied.

Sidney sisters build shelters for Benton dogs

Sierra, left, and Macie begin assembling their project. (Contributed photo)

by Eric Westbye

As the Christmas season approaches, two local teenage sisters from Sidney are giving back to the community in a big way. Sierra Gagnon, 17, and her sister, Macie, 15, have grown up in a family that stresses giving and putting others first. This is evidenced by what they did recently for some dogs at a local shelter.

The entire Gagnon family, mother Tricia, left, and dad Jason, back, help Macie and Sierra in their project. (Contributed photo)

Last month, Sierra and Macie volunteered at Charley’s Strays, a dog shelter in Benton. They spent several hours walking dogs on a cold November Saturday and while they were there they noticed that some of the outdoor dog houses could use a makeover. They decided to take matters into their own hands and build some new homes for the dogs.

With a little help from their dad, Jason, and some donated material from Hammond Lumber, they were able to build three new, insulated, heavy duty dog houses. Three weeks ago they proudly brought the houses to the shelter.

They built each house in three parts, and along with their dad and mom, Jason and Tricia Gagnon, they assembled them on site. They designed the houses with three specific dogs in mind: two are huskies that enjoy being outside almost all winter, but will enjoy the winter even more now that they have insulated homes!

Far too often teenagers these days are labeled as self-absorbed and lazy. Not enough attention is given to the kids that do the right thing every day. These two girls are an example for us all that change starts with the person in the mirror and everyone can do something to make the world a better place.

Macie, left, and Sierra Gagnon with the completed dog houses. (Contributed photo)

Getting the upper hand

Katelynn Shores, 8, of Benton, grappling with Kayla Joseph, 8, of Oakland, at the Maine Skirmish Grappling Tournament on November 10. (photo by Missy Brown, Central Maine Photography staff)

First time

Gaige Martin, 13, of Benton, had a very exciting youth day hunting experience when he shot his first deer on October 26. (contributed photo)

Local youth boxer moving up in the ranks

Braden Littlefield between rounds of a recent bout listens to his coach, Glenn Cugno, with instructions. (photos by Mark Huard, owner Central Maine Photography)

by Mark Huard

Braden Littlefield, 13, of East Benton, a talented young boxer, fighting out of Cugno Boxing, fought and obtained a unanimous decision win over his opponent at the Lewiston Armory on August 3. He was also the recipient of a belt, given to both Littlefield and his opponent for being the Fight of the Night. The event titled “Gettin’ Gritty in the City,” was promoted by Cugno Boxing and was held in the upstairs gymnasium of the Lewiston Armory.

Braden Littlefield

This is a special space for the Cugno Boxers, because their training space is directly below where the event was held. This is a historic site for Maine Boxing, and this is the first time that a boxing event has occurred in this building since 1999. Littlefield’s coach, Glenn Cugno, fought as a professional fighter in that same arena nearly two-and-a-half decades ago.

Braden Littlefield started boxing in 2016 at the age of 10. He has played sports for as long as he can remember to include baseball and football. Braden has 23 bouts under his belt. He and his coach pride themselves on fighting the very best around. Littlefield prefers to challenge himself by accepting fight with more experienced fighters. Many don’t understand that boxing doesn’t have a defined season like many sports. It is a year round commitment and demands dedication in and out of the gym. Littlefield works four days in the gym and does road and bag work on off days as well.

Littlefield has traveled all over New England fighting in every New England state. He has also traveled to Florida, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. Littlefield has won the Silver Gloves New England Championships, as well being the Regional champion. He won the Sugar Bert National qualifier in Virginia Beach which qualified him for the national tournament in Kissimmee, Florida, where he made it to the finals and lost a close split decision in the final bout. Littlefield reports his biggest accomplishment to date is winning a bout against a national champion ranked number one in the country. Littlefield also won the New England Jr. Olympic title and went on to fight in the finals at the Regionals at the Olympic Training Center, in Lake Placid, New York.

Littlefield has grown up in Fairfield and Benton, and has a large fan base. He comes from a big family that all support Littlefield’s boxing goals. Littlefield plans to continue to travel and strive for that national championship.

Benton native serves aboard U.S. Navy assault warship

Petty Officer 1st Class Maegan Findley

A Benton native and 2004 Law­rence High School graduate, in Fair­field, is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Whidbey Island, a warship which transports and launches U. S. Marines from sea to shore as part of amphibious assault operations.

Petty Officer 1st Class Maegan Findley is a hospital corpsman aboard the dock landing ship operating out of Little Creek, Virginia.