HALLOWELL — Tensions flared Thursday night as Regional School Unit 2 board members learned more about how the district made decisions to bring students back to school more days per week.

RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold updated the board on efforts to bring students back to school, four days per week. She said most schools have as many students back as possible — except for Hall-Dale Elementary School, due to spacing issues.

Across the district, 51% of students are back full time, 38% are hybrid and 12% have chosen to stay in fully remote learning. RSU 2 still is using Wednesdays as a prep day for both teachers and students.

But Thursday night’s discussion was primarily focused on bringing students back to Hall-Dale Elementary. When Arnold explained that school officials decided to create more space for students by purchasing mobile classrooms with federal coronavirus relief funds, school board member Dawn Gallagher was upset the board had been left out of that decision.

“I think this is great, but one of the important things about the board is being able to help with that and with the constituents that contact us,” Gallagher said. “I’m just curious when board members were going to be brought into this process.

“I’m just going to say, I think it would have been way cool and better if everyone was involved with the process and known what was going on,” she added.

While she agreed with Gallagher, Arnold said the decision had to be made quickly due to coronavirus relief funding deadlines. She said that is why school officials and the RSU 2 administrative team made the decision.

Gallagher said she had received four calls from parents about the decision. School board members Linda Leet and Chris Myers Asch both said they had heard from parents, but nothing but positive comments.

“I heard from parents, too,” Leet said. “I thought we were going to get more backlash, but parents are happy about doing it this way so kids could get back to school full time.”

She later told Gallagher to “move on.”

In addition to the mobile classrooms, fifth-graders at the school will be moved into space at Hall-Dale Middle and High School. Arnold said that school has some empty space where the fifth grade can have its own wing.

“Looking at the timeline, there were times were we could have reached out (to the board), but there were no meeting times available,” Arnold said. “The idea came up around three weeks ago.”

Factors such as construction and grant applications having to be completed so the portables could arrive on time, were among the factors Arnold listed about the process.

Myers Asch said he had a different perspective on the issue than Gallagher.

“This is great, this is what we were hoping to do,” he said. “Mark (Tinkham, Hall-Dale Middle and High School principal), Kristie (Clark, Hall-Dale Elementary School principal), are working together as a team, not only to figure out future needs.

“HDES is already bigger and bursting at the seams and more families may move in and have bigger classes moving forward,” Myers Asch added. “It was the right move at the right time.”

The board also is now down a member as Jeffrey Pierce, a Dresden representative, has resigned. School board Chairperson Jon Hamann announced the departure, adding that Pierce’s reason for leaving was that he was “having too much going on” with his town duties.

Additionally, Marcia Buker Elementary School Principal Tom McKee’s resignation was accepted; he will be taking a job as a math teacher at Hall-Dale Middle School.

The board also voted on a calendar to use for next school year — it was decided, after multiple discussions, to have early release days on Friday, for a true half day.

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