Proposal seeks to study merging Rumford, Dixfield schools

DIXFIELD — The Falcons and the Cougars may be sharing a nest in the not-too-distant future, if a tentative proposal by RSU 10 Superintendent Tom Ward is approved by the board.

Eileen M. Adams/Sun Journal

Dirigo High School in Dixfield

Eileen M. Adams/Sun Journal

Mountain Valley High School in Rumford

Ward announced to all staff in the district late Tuesday that a proposal for a feasibility study for reconfiguring Mountain Valley and Dirigo schools will be presented to the Board of Directors on March 12.

Dirigo students are Cougars and Mountain Valley students are Falcons.

“Once people get over the emotional part, we would be looking at many potential academic benefits,” Ward said Wednesday morning.

RSU 10 includes 11 towns in three regions: Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury and Byron in Mountain Valley; Dixfield, Canton, Carthage and Peru in Dirigo; and Buckfield, Hartford and Sumner in Nezinscot Valley; plus Hanover.

Residents and school staff have discussed the possibility of combining Mountain Valley High School and Dirigo High School ever since Peru joined the former SAD 21 in Dixfield nearly a decade ago.

The proposal would also change which schools many students would attend, and keep all seven school buildings open.

A high school merger would mean the resulting teams would compete in Class B sports. Now, Dirigo competes in Class C and Mountain Valley is in Class B in most sports.

Declining student enrollments together with increasing costs have prompted RSU 10's administrative team to look at both fiscal savings and academic benefits.

RSU 10 is in the midst of developing its 2012-13 operating budget. And although most cost centers have presented flat budget figures, Ward said the final proposed budget could go to $37 million because of built-in hikes, such as contract salary agreements and increasing utility and fuel costs.

This year's budget is $34.1 million.

With the proposed reconfiguration of schools, costs associated with duplication of services, sports and extracurricular activities would be reduced, the need for two modular classrooms at Dirigo Middle School eliminated, and the need to fill every vacant staff position created by retirement or attrition would virtually end.

As proposed, Mountain Valley High School would become the high school. It would serve 547 students in grades 10-12.

Dirigo High School would become a junior high school serving 372 students in grades 8-9.

Mountain Valley Middle School would remain a middle school, but would serve 335 students in grades 5-7.

Dirigo Middle School would also remain a middle school, but would serve 174 students in grades 5-7.

The three elementary schools would no longer house fifth-graders. At Rumford elementary, student enrollment would be 270 prekindergarten to grade 4; at Dirigo elementary, 317 prekindergarten to grade 4; and at Meroby elementary, 246 prekindergarten to grade 4.

If the two high schools do merge, students would choose new colors, and a new name for the high school, and a new mascot.

Ward said if the board approves pursuing a feasibility study, additional special meetings will be held to gather staff, community and student comments during the next few months.

He said the idea for a reconfiguration came from feedback across the district.

“We looked at closing buildings, but because of the number of students, it wouldn't be cost effective to renovate. We're always looking for ways to save money. We looked at Spruce Mountain (Jay and Livermore Falls), as well,” Ward said.

He said Buckfield Junior-Senior High School would not be involved in the possible merger of the Mountain Valley and Dirigo regions, except that it would benefit by receiving distance-learning courses.

Ward said the population for the Mountain Valley and Dirigo regions is dropping, while the Buckfield region is remaining stable.

The formal presentation on a feasibility study will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 12, at Dirigo High School.

“This (potential) change is difficult and emotional,” Ward said.

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Comments

not about class sports

yes the two schools have different culture just like rumford and mexico did and it has worked out, look at the senior classes under 100 and falling soon we will be cutting course and talented teachers because of falling enrollment or do we keep raising taxes each year to support less and less kids? what type of class sport has nothing to do with it , it is and effort to keep cost down and a balance education with options for the students.

 's picture

Education is not important to some people

This is all about keeping us as a class B school in athletics.

Missy Timberlake's picture

Are you not happy with this?

While this is in the beginning stages and has many feathers ruffled
already we, as taxpayers, citizens, parents and employees of RSU 10
NEED and MUST contact our school board members. We need to do this
quickly. Many comments have been made about the potential bussing of
students from Canton and Carthage to Rumford, but Mountain Valley
parents, please don't forget this could also include your children in
Hanover, Roxbury, etc being bussed a greater distance as well. This
proposal affects every single person in this region. Write letters,
attend meetings, listen with open ears, and stand firm.

About time

This is being done. But at Mountain Valley it should be 9 through 12 and at Dirigo 6 through 8 should be the break down. Then look at the K through 5 housing at various buildings. You don't put 9th graders into a Jr. High setting. They are high schoolers. They play high school sports. Sixth through eight are Jr. High students and in most communities, sports wise, all Jr High sports competitions are 6 through 8. Stop trying to save buildings. If one or two can be closed down to save costs than so be it. Common sense is needed and you don't have to try and be rocket scientists and create multiple conclusions.

 's picture

The people are still in charge.

The last time I checked the school district received its power/authority from the member towns. Those town governments get their power from the people. If you want a budget for next year, you WILL listen to the people. It only takes a special town meeting in the right towns to hang the entire district out to dry. REMEMBER, ultimately you represent US.

Miranda Shurtleff's picture

Money is not being saved..

1) you would be cutting jobs which this economy does not need that is just making things worse we need to be keeping our jobs so teachers arent being cut. 2) Many problems will arise between both dirigo and MV kids putting them together. 3) The 9th graders who play sports will never see there teamates and would have to be bused to MV everyday for practice which is not good for team chemistry. 4) All schools will remain to be opened so no money is being saved there. 5) Kids are going to have long bus runs from MV to Canton and Carthage. And you would also not be saving any money here. 6) Learning styles and grading systems are complety different at the two schools. And why make the classes bigger when the kids can learn better by a small classroom enviroment. It's more then just "Emotional" problems too I don't think Ward is really weighing out pros and cons of this. It's not necessary to combine the schools. More of a hassle.

 's picture

Interesting....

A couple of thoughts.... 1. If you are not closing buildings, but you are adding the cost of busing students from East Dixfield and Canton to Rumford on a daily basis, where is the savings, a couple of teaching positions? 2. The Mountain Valley system has a much different culture than the Dirigo system. I am concerned that the Dirigo students being thrust into an urban culture will increase problems in our communities. 3. Why can't the system use the same distance learning technology between Mountain Valley & Dirigo that it is with Buckfield?? 4. Why aren't our towns putting any significant effort into building the local tax base so that we don't have to sacrifice the education of our children?? 5. How much of this is just about maintaining Class B status for the sports teams?????

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