Jason Long, principal of T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield, addresses the Regional School Unit 56 board of directors Tuesday in Dixfield. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — Three principals told Regional School Unit 56 directors Tuesday that they and their staffs are challenged to provide the support students need, whether in the classroom or online.

All students choosing in-person learning attend classes Monday through Friday. Those who learn full-time at home can participate in live online classes.

Charlie Swan, principal at Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, said staff are designated for students attending classes in person and other staff for learning from home. If there is an elevated risk of coronavirus spread, students are split up into groups from the four district towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru. The groups attend schools on separate days, according to their towns, and all have online classes Wednesdays.

Swan said in the latter scenario, “because our teachers have one group of students on Monday and Tuesday and a different group of students on Thursday and Friday, it limits the contact time that they have with their teachers.”

He said teachers Bethany Poulin and Andrea Palmer work with students learning online, with technology staffer Mason King making calls to students’ homes to provide tech support.

Jason Long, principal of T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield, said when students must learn from home they log into their Google classroom by 9 a.m. to get their day’s assignment.

“I will be honest that is a very challenging instructionally because you would have a group of students that you would like to provide the face-to-face preparation for that independent work for on Monday and Tuesday and then they would go home on Thursday and Friday and (ideally) be able to work independently on the work you set them up with,” Long said.

He said they have support staff for math and English Language Arts one period a day exclusively for online learners, in addition to special times for Special Education students.

Compared to high school students, those at the middle school are not required to be online for each class as it is happening, because most cannot “sit still in front of the computer from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon,” Long said.

Dirigo Elementary School Principal Charlie Swan speaks at the RSU 56 board of directors meeting on Tuesday. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

Superintendent Pam Doyen, who is also principal at Dirigo High School, told directors online students get the same exact instruction as classroom students because they are on a screen in the room “so they can see the class and follow the teachers’ instruction, they can interact with the students in the room, they are actually just a part of our classroom at the high school.”

Connor Weston, a freshman and student representative on the board of directors, said online students “have almost the same experience that we do in the classroom. Like in my classes, all my (virtual classmates) are having the same discussion that we are and everything else and we all get the same work and its basically like they’re in the classroom with us.”

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