At their May 19 meeting, Vassalboro School Board members approved plans, some tentative, for the remainder of this school year, the summer and the next school year, on topics from education to lunch prices to a new telephone system.
Many decisions assumed that students and staff will return to classrooms in late August 2020. Vassalboro Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer emphasized that he and other superintendents spend a lot of time monitoring constantly-changing state and federal pandemic information and guidelines. He hopes Vassalboro Community School (VCS) will re-open before Labor Day 2020, but he offered no guarantee.
VCS Principal Megan Allen said distance learning continues for the rest of this school year. Teachers completed parent-teacher conferences, she said. An important current project is defining parts of course content that have been short-changed by lack of classroom time, so they can be emphasized in the fall.
As the end of the school year approaches, staff have cleaned out students’ lockers and bagged the contents to be picked up. A virtual eighth-grade graduation, probably in the form of a video for students and parents to share, is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2. On Friday, June 5, the last day of classes, Allen and staff are working on arrangements for a parade that will pass as many students’ home as possible.
Allen said volunteers will continue to assemble meals to be delivered by bus through June 4. Beginning Monday, June 8, interim food service director Paula Pooler said the summer meal program will provide van delivery of meals to pick-up points.
In preparation for the hoped-for reopening, school board members unanimously approved a 10-cent increase in the full price of a school lunch, from $2.85 to $2.95, effective in the fall. Pooler explained that under the federal education department’s formula, Vassalboro should be charging $3. Vassalboro officials are allowed to reach the required level in 10-cent steps. Failure to comply would mean a reduced federal subsidy for the lunch program.
Board members accepted the recommendation to spend $20,392 for an upgrade of the phone system, including updating what Technology Coordinator Will Backman calls its brain and buying new handsets compatible with the improved brain. Pfeiffer said the money will come from the current year’s budget, specifically from anticipated savings due to the shut-down this spring.
The board approved a 2020-21 school calendar that has classes starting Wednesday, Aug. 26. Staff will hold preschool preparatory workshops Aug. 24 and Aug. 25.
Pfeiffer reported he had signed the contract to share in a solar energy project under development in Skowhegan (in which the Town of Vassalboro is also participating). Attorney Aga Dixon advised him to expect no immediate follow-up, because the project developers are waiting for other municipalities and schools to decide whether to join.
After previous discussions, board members approved buying into the solar development to reduce electricity costs. The project is currently expected to begin providing power early in 2021 and to run for at least 25 years.
Pfeiffer reminded board members that Vassalboro’s annual town meeting, at which voters will decide on the 2020-21 school budget among other items, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday evening, June 22. Voters will assemble at VCS. Pfeiffer, town officials and others are planning safely-spaced seating and other precautions.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 16, and is expected to be a virtual meeting.
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