DIXFIELD — The head of special education for Regional School Unit 56 told directors Tuesday evening that more money for services will be needed in 2020-21 because there will be at least two more special needs students.

“Part of that is that we have students that have moved into our district that are already in out-of-district placement at Margaret Murphy (Centers for Children),” said Heidi Connelly, director of Special Education. “And then we’ve got a child slated to begin in our district.” He’ll begin kindergarten next year and is on a waiting list for out-of-district placement, she said.

Business Manager Mary Dailey said the special education budget for the year ending June 30 is $376,000.

The district has seven special needs students in out-of-district programs. In the coming school year they are planning on “nine for sure” at a cost of $75,000 per student, Superintendent Pam Doyen said. That doesn’t include transportation expenses for a van and driver, she said.

Connelly also estimates having one extra slot as a buffer in case there is another.

Services for three more students would add an estimated $225,000 for 2020-21.

The cost to send a student to a Margaret Murphy Center is about $50,000, with an additional $25,000 for a MaineCare Seed payment.

“When MaineCare pays a school-based claim, 62% of that is paid by the federal government; the other 38% is considered a state match,” known as a seed payment, and districts are responsible for the payment, Connelly said.

The total number of students receiving special education services has dropped from 177 in August 2018 to 156 students now, although that number is “very fluid,” Connelly said, because it can change daily.

The district includes Canton, Carthage Dixfield and Peru.

According to Business Manager Mary Dailey, the special education budget for 2019-20 includes $220,000 for placements at Margaret Murphy Centers; $96,000 for tuition for the Western Foothills Regional Program in Rumford; and $60,000 for the MaineCare Seed.

When it’s possible, Connelly said she utilizes the Western Foothills Regional Program, which costs $38,000 per student.

“That’s always the end goal, to try to get students back in their own district for a variety of reasons,” she said. “Money is not the top reason. It’s about being with their peers and being with the folks in their community. But there are a lot of variables there.”

In other business, the board held an executive session, followed by a vote to extend the suspension of a student until April 26 and providing tutoring. The suspension began before the February vacation. The reason for for suspension were not provided.

The board also approved the school calendar for next year, which aligns with RSU 10 in Rumford and SAD 44 in Bethel. All three districts send students to the Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico.

The first day of school will be Sept. 2 for kindergarten to grade 6, plus 9; Sept. 3 for grades 7 and 8, and 10 to 12. Prekindergarten classes start Sept. 8. June 11 is the last day of school, which is also graduation day at Dirigo High School in Dixfield.


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