RUMFORD — The Regional School Unit 10 board of directors plans to vote on a $29.4 million budget for 2020-21 during an online meeting at 6:30 p.m. May 11.

It can be viewed on the RSU 10 Facebook page.

The proposed budget is 5.3% more than this fiscal year, which ends June 30. It represents an average decrease of 1.65% in assessments among the district towns of Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury, Buckfield, Sumner, Hartford and Hanover.

The annual budget meeting is set for June 23 and the budget validation vote on July 14, the same day as the statewide primary voting.

At the Monday board meeting, Superintendent Deb Alden said students who have no or little internet service to do schoolwork at home will be provided with internet hot spots.

The district has provided students with computers since schools were closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, Technology Director Brian Carrier said the district received 60 hot spots for its students and their families “that are either out of a service zone for access to the internet or cannot afford it. The hot spots are provided through T-Mobile and are the JOY Tablets. These tablets are able to run a “hot spot” which provides the internet (up to) five devices over cellular data,” he said.

The district has also received 122 Chromebooks from the Maine Department of Education for students at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School in Sumner, Meroby Elementary School in Mexico and Rumford Elementary School. They expect to receive more Chromebooks for students at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford and Buckfield Junior-Senior High School in Buckfield for at-home use.

In other business, Superintendent Alden said the governor’s office, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Education will direct the district on “when schools can be back in session and how that will look.”

Alden said she does not expect those offices will announce schools reopening before June 12, the district’s scheduled last day of school.

“We’re talking now about (if we) can all go back on the first day of school next year when we planned,” she said.

Also, the district expects to receive $900,000 from the coronavirus aid bill, which is providing emergency aid to kindergarten through grade 12 schools with large numbers of low-income students.

“The money has to relate to the … pandemic and the costs that are coming through the pandemic,” Alden said. Examples of use for the funding could be for mental health support for students once they are back in school, more electronic devices or more intervention services for students, she said.

In another matter, Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert and Buckfield Junior-Senior High School Principal George Reuter gave updates on distance learning.

Gilbert said teachers “are getting really creative as to how they are delivering lessons and what they are expecting of kids.

“We look at this as distance learning; we’re providing the curriculum, the instruction, the support, the assessments and the feedback,” he said. “And what we’re asking parents to do is just to be really good parents and provide a safe place for kids to learn at home and contact us when they’re struggling.”

The school is in its third phase of distance learning, he said, and administrators are surveying students and staff “to identify who needs help and what help is out there and making the connections between the kids that need the help and the people that can provide the help.”

He said some families who are struggling and not connecting regularly with the school will receive phone calls “to see what we can do to lower those barriers to make sure that all students are engaged.”

Reuter said students at the Buckfield school were finding ways to get online with the use of hot spots but some students prefer written materials “so we honor that too, so we get the materials into their hands,” he said.

In another matter, Superintendent Alden expressed her gratitude toward all of the food service workers and volunteers who have been preparing, delivering and handing out meals throughout the district since students were sent home in March.

She said she helped on a food delivery route during school vacation week in April and the experience was “really eye-opening. Our kitchen service folks are really putting their heart and soul into this and it’s really a blessing.

“And it was nice to see and experience even though it also is troubling to think about,” she said. “But it ended up being a positive in my mind, (although) you can look at it both ways. I can’t thank all of them enough, as well as the volunteers.”

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