Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit Superintendent of Schools Howie Tuttle told the board Sept. 9, student registrations are rebounding, he hoped by as much as last year’s loss of about 100. He will have official numbers in October, he said at Chelsea Elementary School and on YouTube, where Wiscasset Newspaper viewed the meeting.
Tuttle’s written monthly report, released via email Sept. 7, noted “an unofficial count of 1,515 students registered ... Last year at this time we had 1,418 students registered. This is a significant increase in our student count over last year. It is clear students at all grade levels are coming back for in-person instruction.”
Also Sept. 9, Whitefield mother Angela Sullivan disagreed with the board’s August decision to have students wear masks in class. She said she thinks it hinders students’ interactions with one another and with teachers, and should be looked at again at every meeting.
Later in the meeting, Whitefield Elementary Principal Mark Deblois thanked Sullivan for bringing up the topic. He said no one likes wearing masks, but it means “dramatically” fewer quarantines and he said it gets a lot of things back to normal, such as the cafeteria, including the salad bar; and students moving from room to room for their classes again.
So the masks are “a reasonable compromise to make,” Deblois said. Tuttle said thanks to the board’s recent vote for masks and for pool testing, he has had to quarantine five students so far, instead of 70. “Your vote, as painful as it might have been, to approve that plan, is keeping a lot of kids in school,” Tuttle told the board.
Tuttle said COVID-19 vaccination among staff is in the upper 60% to lower 70%; unlike with students, any masked, unvaccinated staff member who does not take part in pool testing, and has had close contact with someone who has tested positive, must quarantine, and can use sick time but not the “COVID days” that were granted last school year, he said.
“So it is a bit of incentive to go out and get vaccinated.”
In other action, Tuttle encouraged more board members to serve on the “critical” committee to plan for when Wiscasset no longer has to take SVRSU students not accepted at other schools. That arrangement, which stemmed from Wiscasset’s withdrawal from the district, has about two years left on it, he said. One option is to see if Wiscasset would agree to keep doing it, he said. The relationship has been good, Tuttle added.
The board named Karen Prem to serve as a grade six to eight science teacher at Chelsea Elementary; Tracy Dowling, special educational technician III, Palermo School; Anna Grant, first grade teacher, Chelsea Elementary; Mary Moulton, custodian, Whitefield Elementary School; and Mariah Blanchard, PreK educational technician III, Somerville Elementary School.
Whitefield father Anthony Anderson praised and congratulated the district for keeping students in school full-time last school year. He suggested the district consider a high school, so SVRSU parents can have the same input into those grades as they do in the earlier grades.
Anderson, who has coached school sports, also encouraged the board to keep school gyms open to aid community and youth health and help get more students back into sports.