RUMFORD — Two parents of students in Regional School Unit 10 told directors Monday that they are frustrated that schools in Rumford and Mexico are closed for two weeks because of an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The decision last week to close Mountain Valley High School and Rumford Elementary School, both in Rumford, and Mountain Valley Middle School and Meroby Elementary School, both in Mexico, as of Monday, means those students have to learn remotely.

“I feel like we’re not being heard and I feel like the board (is not) reaching out to parents and teachers,” Justeen LaPointe of Mexico said at the in-person board meeting at the high school. “Are you hearing what the community has to say? Because as a working parent and having two kids it’s really hard. My children cannot do this (remote learning).”

LaPointe said she has a child who needs help with reading and it’s impossible to do that online. “I think the board’s fear of this COVID is ruining my children’s education.

“I go to work, (and) you’re kind of making me choose to put a roof over my child’s head or give him an education right now because I can’t be home to do both,” LaPointe said.

She asked asked about her older child’s ability to attend Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico while RSU 10 is closed for in-person learning.

The board later approved of high school students continuing classes at the tech school while the high school is closed.

LaPointe was not the only parents to attend the live meeting Monday night.

Wayne Sevigny of Mexico said, “I have a freshman son. The remote learning is not working; nobody is learning a thing. The school board took away our choices (for in-school learning).”

He said he thought the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines should be followed, specifically that there be three separate COVID-19 cases — not from the same family — in one school before it’s closed.

“The school board decided that we can’t be (in-person learning). I don’t understand that,” Sevigny said.

The board will hold a meeting via Zoom, open to community participation, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, to make a final decision on when to reopen schools and under what circumstances schools would be closed in the future.

When schools opened Sept. 8, the district used hybrid models for high and middle school students, switching groups of students two days a week for in-person learning and virtual learning.

The switch to fully remote learning was made mainly because of the coronavirus outbreak in the community, especially at ND paper mill in Rumford where 23 people have tested positive and one person has died.

As of Friday, Oxford County’s coronavirus risk designation was changed from low, or green, to medium, or yellow, under the state’s color-coded system.

“The county went yellow on Friday, which didn’t mean for our school system a lot of changes because we already have a hybrid going on down in the Nezinscot area” of Buckfield and Sumner schools, Superintendent Deb Alden said. It does mean they had to stop all extracurricular activities and any games or practices in that area, she said.

Alden said she’d received many messages from parents who were frustrated that school sports were stopped and fully remote learning was instituted.

“I had to assure them that the yellow (designation) was a state decision. I do understand and realize there are frustrations with the remote learning,” she said.

Alden asked families who are unable to get internet access or having technical problems for remote learning for their children to contact the district.

“We want you to reach out,” she said. “We need to build our (technological) capacity to be there for you and we know that. So if you need a hot spot, or you don’t have Wi-Fi or if you have very spotty and you need a ‘boost’ or if you need help with your Wi-Fi or your support, advice, please reach out and we have support and we’re going to try to get more as well,” she said.

District Technology Director Brian Carrier said families can call 207-369-5560, ext. 7700 for technological assistance or email [email protected]

[email protected]

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