DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 has been approved for a state loan to pay for privacy stalls in bathrooms at Dirigo High School.

Superintendent Pam Doyen, who is also high school principal, told directors Tuesday that the district’s application to the Maine Department of Education’s Revolving Renovation Fund was approved for $214,750.

During a school board meeting in October, Doyen said staff came “across a situation where we have gender-expansive students who legally and rightfully can use the bathroom of their choice.” She also said then that she had heard from people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth who “were upset because students who are gender-expansive were using their bathrooms.” She said she understood their “concern and frustration” and discomfort.

On Tuesday, Doyen said 68.53% of the loan, or $147,168, will be “forgiven” by the state. RSU 56 will be responsible for 31.47%, or $67,522. The loan is for five years.

Directors will decide at their next meeting Feb. 28 whether the district should accept the offer and how to finance it, or if they want to ask district residents of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru to use capital reserve money, Doyen said.

In other business, Doyen and Business Manager Mary Dailey gave an overview of the 2023-24 budget.

State funding for RSU 56 is down $99,764 from 2023-24, Doyen said. If the district makes no increase from the 2022-23 budget of $13.21 million, except for the lesser amount from the state, it’s estimated the four towns will see some increase in property tax assessments, she said.

Further budget presentations and discussions will be held at public board meetings at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28, March 14 and 28 at Dirigo High School.

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