Regional School Unit 71’s Board of Directors decided to start holding outdoor board meetings on school property at its Aug. 10 virtual meeting. Several members were elected to committee seats.

The board also voted to allow students to return to schools Sept. 2 for the first time in nearly six months.

Chairwoman Caitlin Hills began the discussion, stating that she thought it was important to model in-person meetings using face coverings and social distancing to set an example for students. Board members agreed.

“I think this makes a ton of sense and I feel confident that we can execute it successfully,” board member Scott Cournoyer said.

Board members were apprehensive about allowing the public into schools, because they thought it could increase the chance for the coronavirus to be introduced into district buildings. Board member Josh Solebello suggested that the district use Zoom to broadcast meetings for members of the public to watch.

Superintendent Mary Alice McLean was interested in the idea of using Zoom or another platform to share meetings with the public in real time.

Hills suggested meeting in the district's outdoor classrooms to minimize potential coronavirus exposure by board members in school buildings. Board member Steve Hopkins suggested using radios to transmit the meeting to people’s cars if they want to sit outside and listen.

Board members have not met in person since before March 16, when district schools closed because of the coronavirus. Since then, they have been using Zoom to meet virtually from their homes.

In other business, the board made several new committee appointments. Chairmen will be decided at the committees’ next meetings. Members who sit on each of the six committees are as follows:

  • Scott Cournoyer, David Crabiel and Steve Hopkins sit on the finance committee,
  • Steve Hopkins, Catherine Robbins-Halsted and Jean Dube sit on the facilities committee,
  • Jessica Woods, Scott Cournoyer, Charlie Grey and Josh Solebello sit on the policy committee,
  • David Crabiel, Catherine Robbins-Halsted, Jessica Woods and Jean Dube sit on the Waldo County Technical Center committee, which is not a standing committee,
  • Jessica Woods, Caitlin Hills and David Crabiel sit on the negotiations committee, and
  • Caitlin Hills and Jessica Woods sit on the stipend committee, which is not a standing committee.

In-person meetings will start outside at the next board meeting Aug. 17 at a location to be determined, Hills said. The district is working to ensure a way for the public to attend and participate in meetings, but it is currently unclear what that will look like at the next meeting.