RUMFORD — The Regional School Unit 10 board of directors approved a return-to-school plan on Monday, as well as a grant for a full-time school resource officer.

The board of directors’ return to school plan includes a delayed back to school date for students on Sept. 8, replacing the original Sept. 2 date, to allow more teacher and school preparation days as needed to be ready with coronavirus pandemic protocols in Maine schools. The measure was approved by a vote of 7-4 with one abstention.

Families have been surveyed and given a choice of in-school learning or full remote learning for their children and have been asked to commit to that model until Oct. 2 before making a change. After that date, changes could be made at the end of the first ranking period, Superintendent Deb Alden said during a board meeting last week.  

The newly approved returntoschool plan means that Wednesdays will be entirely remote learning for all students, and families are expected to check their students’ temperatures daily before going to school.  

Elementary school students will also receive a temperature check at their school and be asked if they are feeling well.  

High school and middle school students attending school will be divided into smaller groups who attend the same classes together and have a combination of in-school and remote learning each week so fewer students are in the buildings at any one time. 

Families that choose in-school learning for their elementary school children will have in-person learning each day except for Wednesday and the school days will be shortened by one hour. Elementary school students will have breaks from mask-wearing every 15 minutes and be allowed to go outside to remove their masks.  

During the board of directors’ meeting Monday, one unnamed man who spoke from the audience said that he would not trust every parent to take their children’s temperatures before attending school each day and he requested that temperatures be taken every morning at school and “a teacher talk with every student to make sure they are not ill.”  

Some directors said they were not in agreement with the back-to-school plan for this fall, includinBoard Director Michelle Casey of Buckfield. 

As much as I’d love the kids to come back to school, I think this is the most crazy thing I’ve ever read, especially for little kids. Not because I am fearful of COVID, but because coming to school — a little kid with mask, social distancing from their friends, not being able to interact like we did growing up — is not right,” Casey said.  

Director Travis Palmer of Rumford said,“We’re not taking into account the full picture of how dangerous a situation we’re going into this September. For staff, students, administrations, for everyone across the board, having school at full capacity at the elementary school level — it’s not a smart idea. All it takes is one case to pop up into our community for that to spread like wildfire.” 

Director Charlie Maddaus of Sumner told the board that he thought the district should choose entirely remote learning for the first four weeks of the school year.  

“I just think remote learning right now is the way to go; we just don’t know enough about COVID-19 to go forward, Maddaus said.  

Superintendent Deb Alden discouraged the board from choosing entirely remote learning for its students, saying that the district should at least attempt in-school learning for students.  

We need to attempt (in-school learning this fall) because we’re going to be the one school district that’s not going to know (if it works). Because I will tell you right now that every school district in the state of Maine has some kind of plan to do at least hybrid (learning) with the remote option,” Alden said. 

Officer on duty

Several community members along with Rumford Town Manager Stacy Carter spoke on behalf of their support for the $125,000 Community Oriented Policing Services grant, which would enable the district to have a full-time school resource officer at schools in Mexico and Rumford.  

The COPs grant would cover the position for at least three years to serve Mountain Valley High School and Rumford Elementary School, both in Rumford, and Mountain Valley Middle School and Meroby Elementary School, both in in Mexico. 

The district budgeted $25,000 this year toward the cost of a school resource officer for slightly more than 20 hours a week, Alden told directors at last week’s board workshop. 

The grant agreement includes yearly financial shares from Rumford taxpayers, the school district and the Rumford Police Department totaling $210,136 for three years. Rumford taxpayers, the school district and the Police Department would be responsible for the fourth year. 

During Monday’s meeting, Carter spoke on behalf of the town of Rumford, which approved their share of the grant payments last Thursday, and Police Chief Tony Milligan, who applied for the grant but was unable to attend the meeting. Carter said that in his prior position as chief of the Rumford Police Department for 14 years and member of the force for 30, he was involved in past processes to obtain a COPS grant for the area 

“This is a position that has been sought after for many, many years. There was times that the school board did not approve that the Rumford Select Board did approve. There’s been times they’ve flip-flopped; the school board approved but the select board didn’t. There have been times that both boards approved but we weren’t able to get the grant,” Carter said. 

He also noted that the last several years have seen “a very large increase in school shootings,” and the SRO position would “bring some sense of security and safety to the school environment.” 

An SRO would be “a mentor, somebody to work with the kids and help them through life’s problems, a positive interaction with law enforcement, which not only happens here in school it happens in the community,” Carter said.  


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