DIXFIELD — Superintendent Tom Ward believes the major challenge facing Western Foothill Regional School Unit 10 this school year is how well it will deal with a very tight budget.
“Everyone is surviving on less with all the cuts and we’re still unsure about MaineCare reimbursement,” he said this week.
The amount of reimbursement will determine whether the $34.2 million budget will cover the year without having to make any further changes.
The district eliminated several positions and transferred an unusually high number of employees to try to meet the educational needs of youngsters.
The district has 2,800 students and 570 staff members.
Eight new teachers were hired, as well as new assistant principals at Dirigo High School and Buckfield Junior-Senior High School. Former Dirigo High School Assistant Principal Charles Swan became the new principal at Dirigo Elementary School. Also, the 21st Century Grant has a new administrator, Barbara Radmore.
Ward said the two remaining open educational technician positions are expected to be filled by Aug. 31.
Ward believes school year may see a bottoming out of state funding, and a possible slow turnaround during the next school year.
Despite the number of transfers and cuts, one of the emphases this year is on putting a program into place in each school that aims to help students before they fall behind.
At Dirigo High School, the school’s common period was moved to the end of the day and lengthened so students can receive academic help where necessary, as well as have contact with advisers, Principal Michael Poulin said.
Other changes include combining the lacrosse teams into one by drawing on students from all three high schools, and creating a cross-country track team, also with students from the three schools.
The district is looking into doing the same with cross-country and downhill ski teams.
“One goal of the athletic directors is to think of developing RSU 10 teams where the numbers (for individual schools) are low,” Ward said.
Students from Buckfield Junior-Senior High School will have a chance for the first time to enroll in a calculus class thanks to interactive technology. The class will be taught from Dirigo High School.
Also new this year are night lights at the Dirigo High School athletic fields. Financial and labor donations from a community group resulted in the new lights.
They will be used for the first time at 7 p.m. Friday, in an exhibition football game between Dirigo High and Fryeburg Academy.
As the newly formed school district enters its third year, Ward said efforts to bring all three regions together will continue in such areas as developing a common grading procedure and teacher evaluation process.
A welcome workshop for staff takes place on Aug. 30. On Aug. 31, transition classes grade 6 at Dirigo and Mountain Valley, grade 7 at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, and grade 9 at all three high schools, will begin school. On Sept. 1, all students will be back in class.