DIXFIELD — The RSU 10 board received a lesson in customized learning from several Dirigo Middle School students Tuesday night before unanimously approving Project Guinea Pig.
Customized learning is a new concept the district plans to implement for most students. It allows them to progress at their own pace.
Project Guinea Pig has allowed the students to research the food, care and other needs for keeping a small furry animal in their classroom. They’ve learned new technologies during their research, studied school policies regarding pets in the classroom, created and used spreadsheets and graphs, and learned to work together on a project, social studies teacher Abby Wood said.
“They took control of the project with little guidance from me,” she said.
Five of the seventh-graders involved in the project presented a slide show on the work they have done and plan to do once the board approves having a guinea pig in their classroom.
The project is expected to begin within a few weeks.
The board also approved an eight-day trip to England in April 2014 for any RSU 10 high school student, staff and parents. The trip will be self-funded.
Approval was requested early to allow students to earn money toward the trip and to reserve seats at a discount.
Wood said a minimum of 14 students must sign up for the trip. Already, she said, 20 have indicated interest.
In other matters, long-term substitute teacher Mary Buzzard was hired as interim literacy coach at Rumford Elementary School and Diane Brown was hired as half-time interim French teacher at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, both until the end of the current school year.
Superintendent Tom Ward told the board he is visiting the selectmen’s meetings in each of the 10 district towns to explain the changes in the amount of local appropriations each town must raise in order to receive general purpose aid from the state.
Canton was the most recent one, with Hartford on Thursday and Mexico, Carthage and Sumner following.
“General purpose aid is based on property valuation,” he said. “Property values dropped more dramatically in southern Maine. Now, we’re catching up.”
Although he said RSU 10, which is in year four of an eight-year funding formula, is below anticipated cost, the administration and board are continuing their search for ways to save additional money.
A possible reorganization plan of the schools in the of Dixfield and Rumford-Mexico regions is expected to be presented at the next board meeting Nov. 26.