Carl Gartley, superintendent of Regional School Unit 18, invites the public to comment recently during a board meeting at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Regional School Unit 18 is midway through its second full week back with students attending either in-person classes five days per week or working fully remote. Superintendent Carl Gartley reported “lots of good things going on” at the RSU 18 board meeting Wednesday night at Messalonskee High School’s Performing Arts Center.

Gartley said there are approximately 220 students home-schooling this year, which is nearly triple the usual number. He said the percentage of students learning remotely is “in the mid-teens.”

Gartley gave an update on the first two weeks back at school during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nothing’s perfect, but everything’s getting better,” Gartley said. “We’re doing well.”

The superintendent said he observed creative solutions by staff for keeping traffic one-way and utilizing outdoor spaces. Chorus and band classes are outdoors. Athletics began last week in accordance with Maine Principal’s Association guidelines. The district is pursuing a potential 7-on-7 football opportunity and hopes to get “something” for volleyball, which was set for its first year of varsity status.

“Other extracurriculars are starting up,” Gartley said. “Groups of students have opportunities to participate in activities. … We’re trying to get all of our activities as best we can up and running.”

RSU 18 serves the towns of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

Wednesday’s gathering was quieter than the past two meetings.

The RSU 18 Educators Association requested negotiations with the union over health and safety regulations two weeks ago. They have their second private negotiation session with the board Thursday night. At the previous two board meetings, educators and parents spoke out offering various viewpoints.

Gartley praised staff for their round the clock efforts.

“I can’t begin to tell you how hard the staff are working,” Gartley said. “They’re always on. … You don’t turn off until you leave, probably a few hours after.”

The district also ran into and quickly corrected a problem with one of its cleaning products fading students’ clothing.

“I believe, and to my knowledge based on feedback, pretty much those issues are fixed,” Gartley said. “We notified parents a lot about this and put out an opportunity for families with financial hardship for reimbursement.”

RSU 18 Chief Academic Officer Keith Morin said the district is actively applying for grants related to costs incurred due to the pandemic.

“They’ve been successful,” Morin said.

The sidewalk along the access road from the middle school to the high school is now complete.

New board member Sara Languet of Belgrade accepted her nomination to the Maine School Boards Association annual Delegate Assembly.

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