BELFAST — Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors on Nov. 8 approved the formation of three new ad hoc committees to look into regionalization, transportation, and athletic fields and track. Board members also approved a final draft of COVID-19 winter sports and performing arts guidelines that differ slightly from the draft approved at the previous meeting.

The committees will each have nine members who can be from the public, district staff, or anyone the board will consider. The board chairman will appoint committee members to one-year terms, with the superintendent and finance director acting as advisory members.

The first ad hoc committee will look into regionalizing the district’s elementary schools. District officials have been floating the idea for a while. Superintendent Mary Alice McLean has said that among other benefits, it would reduce district operating costs without eliminating any teaching positions.

The committee will consider several options, including full regionalization, repairing current schools, building a new school for the tri-towns and other ideas.

The transportation ad hoc committee will look at several options for busing, including upgrading and securing the existing bus garage, vehicles and buses; partnering with the city of Belfast to move into a space it creates; building a new garage; and outsourcing transportation.

The final ad hoc committee will consider options for reconfiguring the district’s track and athletic fields, including conducting a needs assessment, hiring a firm with money budgeted for this fiscal year, and keeping existing athletic infrastructure.

There was some discussion  about how many members of the public should be allowed on the committees and other issues regarding the committees’ development.

Board members had also discussed forming the ad hoc committees during an Oct. 12 meeting, where they directed district staff to create a draft to be approved at a future meeting.

Previously, the board had considered tasking the Long Range Planning Committee with addressing the three issues, but several board members thought it would be better to break the work up among three groups of people in committees.

In other business, board members approved a final draft of the Mid-Coast Superintendents’ Region Indoor Sports and Performing Arts 2021-22 COVID-19 Guidelines. At the last meeting Oct. 25, the board had approved a draft of the guidelines, which included allowing masked spectators at sporting and performing arts events, letting away teams use locker rooms and making masking optional for benched athletes.

The final draft differs slightly from the previous one in that benched players must wear masks during indoor games. Officials participating in sporting events may remove masks during games. McLean floated the idea of mandatory pool testing for all athletes and performers, but board members shot down the idea.

McLean has been in discussions with other area superintendents to create similar guidelines for athletes and spectators since the Maine Principals’ Association decided not to issue COVID-19 guidelines for winter games this year, leaving it up to individual districts.

There is little guidance coming from the organization, which oversees high school sports. It is considering requiring wrestlers to have the COVID-19 vaccine in order to compete, which concerns RSU 71 Board Member Cory Seekins, who thinks vaccinations should be optional.

Seekins also doubled down on his preference for sidelined athletes to have the option not to wear a mask during games. Apparently compromising, he conceded the issue, considering the decision not to require athletes and performers to be in pool testing, though it is highly recommended.

“I’ve heard the idea that a good compromise is when both sides are unhappy,” he said, at which board members shared a laugh.

Board members discussed the guidelines for over 40 minutes. The draft passed with two board members voting against it. The guidelines also apply to middle school winter sports and performing arts shows.