PARIS — Chronic absenteeism has dropped overall across Maine School Administrative District 17, as administrators continue to work on getting students back into classrooms more consistently.

Superintendent Heather Manchester told the district’s board of directors that attendance has been a problem since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but that they are making headway.

According to Manchester, chronic absenteeism has dropped from a high of approximately 50% down to 31% of children being chronically absent on a regular basis.

Adding some context, Agnes Gray Elementary School Principal Samantha Armstrong said that on average between 91-93% students are consistently in attendance at the West Paris school since September.

Strategies that school staff have implemented include: increased contacts with families and individualized improvement plans for students who are chronically absent; positive behavior intervention and support (PBIS) programs to celebrate students’ consistent attendance schoolwide; and weekly recognition of the classroom posting the highest attendance rate.



Directors approved first and second readings of updated school policies. Changes in state and federal laws have necessitated the board’s Policy Committee to prioritize a broad review of its policies, some of which have not been updated since the 1990s.

MSAD 17’s policy database is available for public review and may be accessed on the menu page of the district website,

The policy for “KEB Complaints about School Personnel” was recently written on the recommendation of the Maine School Board Association.

Policy Committee Chair and Director Curtis Cole of Norway said the steps outlined in the policy already exist as procedure for complainants and administrators to follow; establishing the policy formalizes how complaints are to be presented and managed. The board voted unanimously to approve the first reading.

Also unanimously approved in first readings for policies “KB Parent Involvement in Education” and “DJ Bidding/Purchasing Requirements.” Policy KB lays out options and expectation for parents and guardians to participate in public education. Director Jared Cash of Norway requested that language referencing guardian rights and roles be included in the policy when its second reading comes before the board.


Policy “DJ Bidding/Purchasing Requirements” adjusts minimum values when soliciting bids for school expenditures required by state law and for federally funded contracts and for projects where requests for proposal may be used instead of competitive bidding.

Policy “BDF Board Advisory Committees” and “Policy JHB Truancy” were accepted upon their second reading. First readings had been approved during MSAD 17’s board meeting on Nov. 6.

Following a second school board workshop on Oxford Hills’ school construction projects to replace Agnes Gray and Oxford Hills Middle School in South Paris, directors voted on priorities to guide the building committees as planning moves forward.

The priorities are: academic excellence; a middle school for grades 6-8; equity in quality of facilities, programming, safety and learning resources; minimize non-instructional expenses; establish universal pre-kindergarten and pre-pre-kindergarten; maximize career and technical education pathways for all grades; community buy-in/understanding of education; and transportation.

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