DIXFIELD — The Regional School Unit 56 board of directors Tuesday approved a $12.97 million budget for 2020-21, an increase from this year’s $12.71 million.

If approved by voters in Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru, the average increase in tax assessments among the four towns would be 1.287%.

A budget meeting and vote is set for June 23 and a budget validation referendum is planned for July 14, the same day at the state primary election.

In other business, directors approved a policy that Dirigo High School seniors would not have to meet the district’s usual full graduation requirements because the coronavirus pandemic restrictions are “outside of (students’) control.”

“We have students in remote learning that may or may not be able to meet all of their requirements that RSU 56 has set up for graduation requirements,” Superintendent Pam Doyen said. “If for example, the student had community service that wasn’t completed, they can’t go out and do community service right now.”

“We’re looking at how to make adjustments and still have good standards but be reasonable for our students who are dealing with this remote learning situation at this time,” she said.

Although this year’s senior graduation standards will be adjusted, the district “would not look to lower the standards below what the state minimum is; we still have expectations of students that graduate,” Doyen said.

Also approved by the board was a policy revision to allow all high school students to participate in sports and extracurricular activities, even without passing grades at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Doyen told directors the Department of Education’s edict to “hold students harmless” because of possible learning environment problems created by the coronavirus pandemic is the reasoning behind changing the policy and allowing students to participate in sports whether or not they have passing grades.

“For example, if we had a student that was really struggling right now, they may end up with an incomplete in their classes instead of a pass,” Doyen said. “If they have an incomplete that means they’d have credit recovery and we’d be working on that through the summer or fall.”

After the start of the school year, students’ grades will be checked for their eligibility to play sports within the first second and fourth weeks of school and then each quarter, Doyen said.

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