Wiscasset School Committee hears about contact tracing, SVRSU’s high school 2023 issue

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 8:45am

    Hours before Wiscasset’s school committee met Tuesday night, Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit Superintendent of Schools Howie Tuttle gave his Wiscasset counterpart a heads up. Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood told the committee in the Wiscasset Middle High School library and on Zoom, Tuttle called that morning to let her know SVRSU’s board would be looking at having him contact Wiscasset and possibly other school districts as SVRSU plans for 2023.

    That is when, under Wiscasset’s withdrawal deal with SVRSU, Wiscasset no longer has to take SVRSU students other high schools refuse. Wood said, “They feel that it is very beneficial for their kids, because a lot of times kids are going to different schools, they get kicked out, they end up in Wiscasset and then they’re successful in Wiscasset. But that also puts a lot of pressure on us, having to accept any student ... So it’s a discussion ...,” she said.

    “So we don’t have to accept, even if they want us to, we don’t have to,” Chair Michael Dunn asked. Wood said that was right, the arrangement runs out in 2023, and Tuttle just wanted her to know his board would be taking up the matter.
    The SVRSU board is set to, at its 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14 meeting at Chelsea Elementary School. The district also carries the board meetings on YouTube and shares the recordings at svrsu.org. The agenda, out Tuesday, lists a suggested motion: “To have the Superintendent inquire of the Wiscasset School Department School Board if they want to continue as the high school of record for RSU 12 beyond the ten-year window.”
    Last month, Tuttle raised the issue with the SVRSU board. He encouraged members to serve on a “critical” committee to plan for when Wiscasset no longer has to take SVRSU students not accepted elsewhere. One option is to see if Wiscasset would agree to keep doing it, he said. The relationship has been good, he said.
    Also Oct. 12, Wood and WMHS nurse Marilyn Sprague described as tedious and meticulous the contact tracing done when someone gets COVID-19. Wood said it takes the department “hours and hours,” or recently all weekend, including notifying parents, so she is always on guard for getting word of a case. The team is phenomenal, she added.
    Sprague said, besides potential contacts in the classroom, “You have to check who was sitting where in the cafeteria, who was sitting where and ... around them on the bus (and) if they went to sports, you have to talk about the whole sports team” as potential contacts. “It’s just unbelievable. And then you (know) all the people who were in contact and then you start eliminating them” from needing to quarantine if they were absent or vaccinated, or take part in the school department’s pooled testing, she said.
    The department is still requiring distancing and masks inside, still disinfecting and still doing as much learning outside as possible, Wood said. “It’s working,”
    Dunn said. Officials and committee members noted Wiscasset schools have fared better than some. According to Maine Department of Education’s website Oct. 13, as of Oct. 7 WMHS had had seven cases in the past 30 days, Wiscasset Elementary School, fewer than five, and neither school was among the 113 on outbreak status.
    Wood said the U.S. Department of Defense and Maine Army National Guard have thanked Wiscasset for its “relentless support” as an employer when the Guard deployed WMHS staff member and Sgt. Sean Pfahler to Augusta in January to ensure a safe presidential transition.
    And Ben Davis of OpBox in Nobleboro plans to use plastic bottles to make, for free, a table for Wiscasset Elementary School to place milk cartons and other recyclables, after WES Head Cook Theresa Meehan spoke with him, Wood announced.
    The committee meets next on Nov. 9.