DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen told directors Tuesday night that pool testing for COVID-19 at the middle and high school is allowing more students to remain in class because only those who test positive need to quarantine.

Pool testing is being done for students and staff at T.W. Kelley Dirigo Middle School and Dirigo High School, both in Dixfield, only with the consent of parents or adults in the pool.

At Dirigo Elementary School in Peru there were four cases of the virus and 27 students in quarantine in the past two weeks. That’s an increase from the period Sept. 29-Oct. 12, when there were no cases and 10 students in quarantine.

There is no pool testing at the elementary school because the school nurse is busy with 400 students, Doyen said. The district would need someone from the testing company to provide that service, or possibly have the high school nurse do it, she said.

The middle and high schools had no coronavirus cases or quarantined students Oct. 13-26.

Face masks have been required for all students and staff since mid-September, which some have opposed.

Before the meeting started Tuesday, Kristi Carrier, the parent of an RSU 56 student, said she is against the mandate.

“So, I do understand that it is important to keep them at school. However, my question to you all is what is the cost of this? I challenge you to explain to me the benefits of masking. Children are just not numbers; they are humans who deserve to be thought of as more than a collective group.”

She said her “young adult” was recently sent to the school office for disciplinary action because his mask was below his nose.

“I’m not a parent at the pretense that my child is perfect,” she said, “but he was told he’s disrespectful for allowing his mask to fall below his nose for breathing fresh air. And yesterday a letter was sent to the kids and staff at the high school reminding them of the necessary compliance to correctly wear your mask.”

“You can get a detention for mask placement,” Carrier said. “Our overworked teachers are expected to be mask police now and discipline for something that is not supported by data, does not improve health and has no business being in our schools.”

Parent Brandy Bordeau also spoke against mandating masks for students.

“With or without masking we have surges of COVID-19 cases and close contacts,” she said. “I would like to choose whether my child wears a mask or not.”

Bordeau also asked district officials to use more of its COVID-19 government funding to provide more outdoor seating for students who can be unmasked outside.

“In my opinion, since school has started the weather has been good and we should be outside more,” she said. “This is not easy to do (since) we do not have seating or tables outside. The grass is wet, and kids cannot sit down.”

In the first two weeks of school when masks were optional, 189 students were out of the class either due to positive cases or quarantines. From Sept. 15 to 18, when masks were required, a total of 21 students were out of school for the same reasons. From Sept. 29 to Oct. 12, when masks were required, no students tested positive and 11 students were out of class because they were close contacts of community members who tested positive.

In other business, directors voted to sell 225 computers from T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School in bulk. Brian Keene, district technology director, said the district was able to purchase new computers this year for students and staff with funding from government COVID-19 funds.

“These devices are six years old and to the point now where they’re not of good use to us anymore,” he said. “My preference . . . would be to do a bulk sale to a reseller.”

He also said high school students will get new computers so there will be at least 250 more to be sold.

The district includes Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

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