RUMFORD — The Maine Department of Education has “made it very clear that the most important thing is that we get all students in full time, in person, and that’s the first priority,” Superintendent Deb Alden said at the Regional School Unit 10 Board of Directors meeting on Monday.

She also noted that MDOE officials “feel that the most important things to do in this (situation) are, No. 1, that everybody (who) can be vaccinated gets vaccinated.”

Also highly encouraged for students and staff this fall by the MDOE and Alden is pooled PCR or polymerase chain reaction testing, which, Alden said, “is a pretty non-invasive opportunity to decrease quarantine, and that is very important.

“We don’t want kids in quarantine all the time; we want them in school.” By using pooled testing, the only students or staff that would have to quarantine during a positive case of COVID-19 in the schools would be those who tested positive for the virus rather than everyone who was near to the COVID-positive person.

According to information from the MDOE, the PCR test “can detect the virus at incredibly low levels, catching COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals before they become symptomatic or infectious.”

Also, Alden said, the MDOE will recommend masking in schools, but they will not mandate masking.  The superintendent can mandate masks and vaccines, she said, although she would not make those decisions “until at least the week of Aug. 23 because things change all of the time.” The first day of school in the district is Sept. 1.

In other business, the board of directors unanimously approved the purchase of services for remote instruction for 17 RSU 10 students from the Western Maine Regional Service Center for the school year. As of this fall, RSU 10 students will no longer receive remote instruction from the district’s area schools.

The WMRSC program provides services such as professional development and other educational services to RSU 10 and 17 other districts, Alden told the board.

Students who are enrolled in the remote program will need a recommendation from their teachers that the student did well working remotely, and the student must start the program at the beginning of the school year, she said. “They identify as kids that did better in learning (remotely) for whatever reason. I’m speculating that if you’re somebody that has anxiety you might be better around less people, therefore (you may) be struggling with coming to school and learning,” Alden said. She noted that remote learning was “one pathway that could help” some students.

Regional School Unit 10 Assistant Superintendent Leanne Condon, standing, speaks Monday during the district board of directors meeting at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford. Board directors facing from left are Bill Hobson of Rumford, Bonnie Child of Mexico and Dan Hodge of Rumford. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

In another matter, Alden provided a list of seven items that the state government “typically doesn’t pay for” in consideration of the district’s needs for its new school building for students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

The school is planned at the site of Meroby Elementary and Mountain Valley Middle schools in Mexico. It would house students from Rumford and Mexico elementary schools and the middle school.

Seven items included on Alden’s list of items not usually covered by government funds but desired by the school administration for the new building were: community stairs or a meeting area to take the place of the auditorium in the middle school building; a fitness center space; passive energy systems for walls, windows and roofs; a full-size gymnasium; additional parking spaces; a full track area with six lanes; and air conditioning.

In order to attain these needs for their new school building the district will “need to get the word out for those interested in (making) donations or fundraising,” Alden said. Also, some items, such as the community meeting area, might be covered by government funds since the area would replace the auditorium space in the middle school, she said.

In other news, Assistant Superintendent Leanne Condon and Mountain Valley High School Principal Matthew Gilbert presented their findings for A Portrait of a Graduate, a program created by the Barr Foundation based in Boston.

The district created a “Portrait design team” made up of community members and school staff to study the most important competencies that the district’s graduates should achieve. According to the team’s finalized results, the six competencies needed for its students’ success in the world are critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, empathy, adaptability and integrity.


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