VASSALBORO — Those involved with the Vassalboro Community School overwhelmingly believe the school is safe, but the community and teachers differ on their stances on hybrid learning versus fully in-person learning.

The Vassalboro School board convened Tuesday night and discussed a plan for spending additional coronavirus relief funding and remote learning. Board members also examined results of a survey where 234 individuals, or 60% of the community, responded.

Vassalboro Community School Principal Megan Allen reported that 73.3% of the community and 71% of the staff strongly agreed or agreed that the school is safe.

“And that trumps everything right now,” Allen said. “We can’t learn if people aren’t safe.”

More than 50% of the community believes the safest method of learning is five days per week in person, but 86.8% of staff feel the best option is continuing the hybrid schedule.

Vassalboro Community School enrolls 395 students grades kindergarten through eight. Currently students alternate days of in-person and remote learning.

There is also a remote learning cohort. Allen told the board there are approximately 100 fully remote leaners at the school. Allen said the attendance committee meets twice weekly and they sometimes have to conduct “welfare checks” when no one logs on to class.

Allen said the survey results showed “we are not happy with how remote learning is going.” She anticipates things will improve as students and staff have learned the cadence of the schedule.

The school has desks 6 feet apart, more than the required 3 feet. There is no plan to change this.

“It allows for a comfortable environment,” Allen said. “(Three feet) is not conducive to learning.”

The district is waiting to hear how much it is allotted in the next round of federal coronavirus relief funding. They have $90,000 of unspent relief funds from the first round of funding. Mary Boyle, who works with the schools in the now defunct Alternative Organization Structure 92, said the first batch of funding provided personal protective equipment and “all of the things that really allowed the school to get up and running.”

“I think one thing will be, how do we find some supports for students, in terms of meeting needs that have been created by this unusual circumstance that we’re in,” Boyle said, “and how do we find a way to impact these supports that don’t impact the local budget?”

The school instituted a common math assessment this fall. They plan on having another this spring to measure progress. The results of the assessments are meant for instructional use, but will likely be available to parents.

The school has not seen a new case of COVID-19 since returning from winter break. Vassalboro Community School has seen three cases. The school utilizes rapid antigen testing to begin contract tracing quickly when an exposure occurs.

Part-time Superintendent Alan W. Pfeiffer reported the school is beginning to reap the benefits of a solar array that was turned on Dec. 30, 2020.  The Vassalboro Select Board and school board purchase the power from an out of town array.

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