The Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors addresses concerns raised by parents over quarantining and instructional expectations at their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Superintendent Chris Elkington said that the district should have a better outline for parents by early next week. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — The Mt. Blue Board of Directors discussed contact tracing and quarantining guidelines for students at its Tuesday, Sept. 14, meeting.

Superintendent Chris Elkington said he’s been notified that it’s “not clear for parents” what the expectations for quarantining and maintaining educational instruction are.

“We were going to look at kids who quarantined, anywhere from 5-7 days, that we would look at a student [as though they had] chicken pox and give them that extra support,” Elkington said.

Since the start of the school year, 10 people across the district have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 173 close contacts, according to health notices from the Office of the Superintendent.

While there have been 173 close contacts, the board clarified that some of those individuals may be exempt from quarantining.

Elkington said that the district will not be doing a “remote, dual platform” option for attending class, as they did last year.

“That was extremely difficult and for kids that were home, a lot of homes were not able to have internet access,” Elkington said.

Elkington said the central office will work to clarify instructional expectations by early next week.

As of now, the district’s quarantining guidelines fall in line with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Education.

Because of the universal masking mandate, all students within 3 feet of a positive case have to quarantine for 10 days unless:

•  The close contact has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for more than 14 days.

•  The close contact previously tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days of the exposure.

•  The close contact participates in weekly school pooled testing and the exposure was a school exposure.

However, close contacts outside of that 3 feet do have to quarantine if the exposure occurs in buses, cafeterias, and school- sponsored activities.

The close contacts that have to quarantine are also expected to test for COVID-19 immediately and again 5-7 days after exposure.

Director of Curriculum Laura Columbia said that the district is looking into obtaining their own rapid tests and training nurses in testing. As of right now, she recommended locations that offer free testing, including Walgreens and Franklin Memorial Hospital.

In other business, the board kickstarted the district’s strategic planning process by hiring facilitator Mary Jane McCalmon.

Elkington previously described a district’s strategic plan as outlining a 10 year plan for “where we think the district should go and for what we think an RSU 9 student should leave us with.” This impacts what updates are needed in academics, for developing social-emotional skills, for the district facilities, technology, etc.

McCalmon will begin the process by conducting outreach in the RSU 9 community.

“You want to make sure that this is a process that includes the voices of as many people in the community as possible,” McCalmon said.

McCalmon will be forming a strategic planning team made up of 12 members that are different stakeholders in the district — parents, staff members, other members without children in the district, etc.

“They will oversee the entire process from now until the end of the school year,” McCalmon said.

McCalmon, who has been helping districts across Maine with their strategic planning process for “a number of years,” said the plan will involve two action items: “where we’re going and how we get there.”

The board also approved a motion to move the district’s central office, which includes the superintendent’s office, the special education department, the business office and operations and management to a separate office space off of the Mt. Blue campus.

The move and subsequent expenses for the approved 32-34 months are projected to cost $120-130,000 and will be paid for by funds from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III grant.

Elkington said this move will make more space for programs in the Foster Career and Technical Education center, among other programs.

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