The Regional School Unit 2 board of directors hosts a special meeting Thursday night over Zoom. The board voted to have early release days on Fridays, occurring monthly, in the 2021-22 school year. Zoom screenshot

HALLOWELL — While some members of the Regional School Unit 2 board of directors said a “flawed” survey had them opposing an early release plan, the district will have monthly early release Fridays for the 2021-22 school year.

The vote was divided, with nine members voting in favor of the motion and three — Donna Seppy, Linda Leet and Dawn Gallagher — in opposition.

Leet did not say why she voted no, but Seppy and Gallagher said they opposed how the survey was handled.

In addition to the survey’s accuracy, Gallagher said she was upset she did not receive the data ahead of the 6 p.m. meeting, even though RSU 2 officials have said they would provide all relevant information ahead of meetings.

Thursday was the school board’s third discussion on the matter. The district has put out two surveys about early release days. The second survey went out because board members criticized the first one for not giving families enough options.

“It was unclear if/how the student time would be made up,” Sarah Luttle said during the Zoom meeting. “Can you elaborate on this? Will it extend the school year? This would have been helpful in answering the survey. I believe that’s why so many parents thought it was flawed. There was no, ‘business as usual’ option.”

The survey, created by Assistant Superintendent Mary Paine for families and RSU 2 staff members, generated 891 responses.

According to the data Paine cited, respondents preferred early release on Fridays, once a month, three hours early.

Other options included biweekly early releases, every-week early releases, late starts or having early releases or late starts on some Wednesdays.

Superintendent Tonya Arnold said four early release Fridays have been built into previous years’ calendars, but they were switched to Wednesday this year to fit into the hybrid learning schedule.

The second choice was to have weekly early release on Fridays, which received 10 votes fewer than the first option.

Paine said 33 respondents did not choose any option because the survey “didn’t give them a choice to vote ‘no.'”

Gallagher said she asked district officials if they wanted help creating the survey.

“The day after our meeting, I reached out to folks in leadership,” Gallagher said. “I said, ‘Let me know how I can help in any way.’ I feel bad because it probably could have been better.”

Board member Chris Myers Asch said he thought there was going to be an option where people could choose to keep business as usual. Not having that “felt like the survey was rigged from the parents’ perspective,” Myers Asch said, noting she had received many emails from parents with concerns about the survey and its options.

Board member Kathryn Marseglia said she received emails from concerned parents, too, and forwarded them to RSU 2 board Chairperson Jon Hamann.

Hamann said parents’ desire to have biweekly early release “was in not the majority” of responses. He also noted there would be six early release days, and they would only occur in months that did not have workshop days built into the schedule.

“As an example, I am a parent who did not respond to the survey, because there was not an option I supported,” Erin Fogg wrote in the Zoom chat during the meeting. “I wrote to my school board member instead.

“With respect, relying on people to not choose an option is not a reliable way to determine if people do not support the options without making that clear in the instructions.”

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