DIXFIELD — Cases of COVID-19 among students rose from 18 to 75 from Jan. 11-25, Superintendent Pam Doyen told Regional School Unit 56 directors Tuesday.

The district includes Dirigo High School and T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School, both in Dixfield, and Dirigo Elementary School in Peru. Tuesday’s meeting was at the high school.

Since the standard operating procedures were updated Jan. 12 based on Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidance, students and staff are no longer required to isolate solely for being a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus, Doyen said.

“With our mitigation strategies with (universal) masking and social distancing, (done) as much as possible in our schools, (we’re) seeing that in-school transmission isn’t happening as much as community transmission,” Doyen said. “So, we’re not spending our time doing contact tracing.”

In other business, Doyen, who is also principal of Dirigo High School, gave an overview for the high school’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget goals. Principals Charlie Swan and Jason Long, and Technology Director Brian Keene, shared goals for their departments as well.

Swan, the principal at Dirigo Elementary School, noted one of his goals was to increase the school’s leadership team from three to four members.

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“So, our desired outcome (with an additional leader) is to have a more effective and efficient process for identifying, supporting and referring students who are struggling both academically and behaviorally,” Swan said. He explained the additional leadership position would include a $1,400 stipend and that he had “trimmed areas” from his overall budget to cover the cost.

Long, the middle school principal, noted his main goal, among other budget ideas, is “to create a school where we have academic rigor, and we (continue to) care about people.”

He also said the school’s new Alternative Education program was important to many students at risk of dropping out of the general education program. The new program was paid for with federal COVID-19 money.

“I think that the cost of not having (an Alternative Education program) outweighs the cost of having one … because taking a student who’s at risk and on track to drop out of high school, and to claw them back into being a viable candidate for high school diploma, is an expensive proposal without an awesome batting average. The best time to catch a student and reengage them is at the middle (school) level,” he said.

Doyen said her goals for the upcoming high school year include increasing student graduation rates and the percentage of students who feel safe and socially connected at school. Additionally, she hopes “to provide multiple pathways for students to meet (learning) standards.”

Brian Keene, the technology director, told the board of directors that his department wants to add 12 new security cameras at Dirigo Elementary School and replace 30 cameras at the middle school.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve been looking at our camera systems that are going further and further out of date,” Keene said.


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