VASSALBORO: Two annual activities successful despite disruptions

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members again got upbeat monthly reports from school officials at the Dec. 15 board meeting.

Vassalboro Community School Principal Megan Allen said two traditional annual activities were successful despite the disrupted year. The Giving Tree program was so well supported that five more families were helped this year than last year. And the virtual December Viking Pride Assembly recognized honor roll students and those who exemplified the Pride virtues of respect, responsibility and kindness. Remote learners were included, Allen said.

She reported that the number of students choosing to learn entirely remotely increases gradually, and services to remote learners are increasing as well.

She also said that Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) Master Specialist Victor Esposito and Guidance Counselor Meg Swanson organized a school-wide door decorating contest that resulted in a variety of creative additions.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said the listing of a coronavirus outbreak at Vassalboro Community School during the Dec. 14 briefing by Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Nirav Shah was old news; CDC is no longer investigating.

The CDC epidemiologist who gave Pfeiffer and Allen advance notice of the public mention praised their handling of the situation and their overall policies, Pfeiffer said. He, too, offered thanks and congratulations to everyone involved, school personnel, students and parents.

School Nurse MaryAnn Fortin seconded Pfeiffer’s report. “Things are looking pretty good right now, fingers crossed,” she said.

(In his Dec. 18 report to the media, Shah said there are few if any cases of in-school transmission in Maine or nationally, and praised school personnel, students and parents for their efforts.)

Given the success so far, board members agreed to continue what they’ve been doing, including leaving winter sports canceled “out of an abundance of caution,” Pfeiffer said.

The board also approved continuing the current school schedule through February. The schedule has different groups of students alternately in the building and learning from home, and Wednesday afternoons set aside for teachers’ preparation time and extra connections with students at home.

When board member Jessica Clark asked when students could return to in-school classes full time, Allen said not until social distancing requirements are removed. She and Assistant Principal Greg Hughes are monitoring space use, looking for a chance to bring students who most need in-school work – some in special education programs, for example – into the building more often.

Pfeiffer added that the administration’s goal is to get students back into the building, but doing so safely is the priority.

Finance Director Paula Pooler said the business office that serves Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow school departments is still extremely busy with the necessary paperwork for extra federal and state funding. But, she said, the additional aid has kept the budget in balance so far, and Vassalboro is about to add four new buses to the one acquired earlier this fall.

Board members approved appointment of Tanya Thibeau as new special education director for Vassalboro Community School (not to be shared with Winslow, as former Director Amy Benham was). Allen said Thibeau was the selection committee’s unanimous choice from four candidates, and she looks forward to having her full-time in the school.

The meeting was followed by an executive session. Afterward, Pfeiffer said he and board members agreed he will serve as superintendent for another year. He prefers one-year terms, to give the school department and himself flexibility.

The next Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, January 19, 2021.


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