DIXFIELD — The senior class at Dirigo High School will have a live graduation ceremony June 12 on the football field because there are fewer than 50 members.

Superintendent Pam Doyen announced the plan to the Regional School Unit 56 board of directors at their online meeting Tuesday night.

“Because we have less than 50 students, we are going to have them march into the football field,” Doyen said. “They will sit up on the bleachers 6 feet apart so they’ll be socially distanced. Parents, grandparents and family will be able to sit in cars on the football field.”

The students won’t be receiving their diplomas during the ceremony, though, because of the social distancing requirements, she said.

The plan meets state guidelines to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Most end-of-year celebrations for seniors will be held virtually in early June and recorded, Doyen said, including the senior assembly and candlelight ceremony.

In other business, Director of Nutrition Gena Cloutier gave an update of the district’s nutrition program. Since March 16, when schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the staff has prepared breakfasts and lunches for 369 children from 161 families in Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru. Buses and vans deliver the meals — enough to feed them seven days a week — to homes or they are picked up at TW Kelly Middle School in Dixfield.

The district has served 40,782 meals so far, Cloutier said.

Brian Keene, director of technology, updated the board on the district’s technology needs since the March closure. He said about 275 computers have been sent to Dirigo Elementary School students and 360 to middle and high school students who needed them to do schoolwork at home.

For those students and staff who don’t have adequate internet service at home, the district has received 31 wireless internet hot spots for their home use, donated by Community Concepts of South Paris and Maine Digital Equity Center.

“The current (hot spots) that we have are through T-Mobile, which doesn’t get the best reception in our four towns, though the new ones that are coming in from the Maine Department of Education are actually from Verizon, so hopefully that will help a couple students who can’t get reception right now,” Keene said.

In other news, Doyen said the district was recently notified by the Maine State Department of Education that it was not selected to receive a federally funded 21st Century grant.

“It was very disappointing,” she said. “It really came down to other schools having higher free and reduced-rates” for lunches.

Dirigo Elementary School students were originally included in the after-school learning program funded by the grant when the district was part of RSU 10, but following RSU 56’s withdrawal from RSU 10 in 2016, the district reapplied last year and was denied.

If the district had qualified for the grant in the coming school year, it planned to hold after-school intervention and enrichment programming at Dirigo Elementary School in Peru and the middle school in Dixfield.


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