RUMFORD — Directors of Regional School Unit 10 on Monday approved winter sports for high school teams in Rumford and Buckfield during times of moderate risk of spreading COVID-19.

Until mid-January the Maine Principals Association ruled that high school sports would not be played at schools if their county was designated by the state as a moderate or high risk for transmitting the virus, Superintendent Deb Alden told directors.

That ruling has changed to allow districts to decide whether they will hold school sports and extracurricular activities when there is elevated risk of spreading the virus.

The risk assessment by the state is designated by colors for each county, with green indicating low risk, yellow moderate and red high. RSU 10 includes Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury, Hanover Buckfield, Hartford and Sumner, all in Oxford County.

Cheryl Sevigny, a teacher at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico and mother of children attending Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, and Abby Mazza, a 2017 Mountain Valley High School graduate, told directors students should be allowed to play sports now.

“I’m here tonight to ask for your support to try to get a little bit of normalcy back for our kids and allow them to compete against other schools, Sevigny said. “Everybody says how our kids’ mental health is suffering and I can attest to that personally.

“When we start to take away those things that they look forward to and the normalcy of it, it makes that even more difficult,” she said.

Mazza, of Rumford, said she has a brother who is a high school senior and a sister in eighth grade. “Remote learning is not working,” she said. “The reason why I think it’s not working is because these kids are putting in all of this effort to get no reward. Sports are a big thing here; it’s pretty much the only thing to do in this town and that’s to compete and I think that if these kids get the chance to compete again, that you will see a change in their attendance, their grades, their happiness, their want to be at school because they have something coming out of it.”

Alden said as of last week the Maine Principals Association allows school sports teams to practice and condition in person. On Friday, she and other superintendents met and created guidelines for their districts. They include:

• Competitions can begin no sooner than Feb. 8 to allow for two full weeks of conditioning and practice and to provide time to evaluate the effectiveness of safety protocols.

• No more than two competitions may be scheduled in any week for individual teams.

• No team with a case of COVID-19 among its personnel (students or staff) will participate in competitions with other schools.

Cortney Sirois, athletic director of Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, and Tom Danylik, athletic director of Mountain Valley High School, also favored allowing winter sports.

Sirois said she saw “joy” on students’ faces as they were able to “get into the gym to grab a basketball, bounce it around, to start practicing with their friends.”

“And we have implemented many, many protocols, above and beyond what was put forth for us to make sure that our kids are safe and that they’re not coming to practice sick,” Sirois said. “They’re making sure they wear their masks and they’re sanitizing in and out … they were just so excited to be in the gym today; I would hate to see that taken away from them.”

Danylik also spoke of “additional protocols” in the district and said if schools were allowed to play winter sports he and other leaders will “communicate frequently with those schools” about all health and safety issues.

In other business, Alden’s contract was renewed through June 30, 2024, following an executive session.

According to her prior contract, Alden’s salary for 2020-21 was $120,232 for the year, but no changes in salary were discussed at Monday’s meeting, Administrative Assistant Peggy Collette wrote in an email Wednesday.

Alden became superintendent in November 2016. Prior to that she was special education director schools in Turner, Leeds and Greene for 15 years.

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