Committee seeks agreement to keep Dirigo High School open

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DIXFIELD — The Dixfield Withdrawal Committee is considering holding a referendum to call off its effort to leave RSU 10, if it gets a guarantee that Dirigo High School will remain open for at least 10 years.

The decision was made at Wednesday’s meeting.

The committee wants to hire a lawyer to work with the district’s lawyer on an agreement to have the school stay open another 10 to 13 years.

Committee Chairman Bob Withrow said the next steps will likely be taken at the Feb. 13 meeting. Meanwhile, he plans to talk with Isaacson and Brann lawyer Daniel Stockford, while RSU 10 Superintendent Tom Ward talks with Dick Spencer of Drummond and Woodsum.

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Ward said an agreement may provide more assurance to Dixfield residents.

Committee member Todd Blodgett said the longer Dixfield is a part of RSU 10, the more difficult it could be to pull out in the future.

However, the general consensus among members was that Dixfield can’t go it alone.

Of the four towns that once made up SAD 21, only Dixfield has voted to begin the withdrawal process.

Carthage has turned its withdrawal petition in to selectmen and has agreed to raise $3,000 toward the cost of withdrawal. Peru has gathered signatures on a petition and Canton hasn’t taken any steps.

RSU 10 board member Faith Campbell of Canton said she doesn’t believe Canton, Carthage and Peru could begin a withdrawal process without Dixfield picking up part of the costs.

When Dixfield voters approved beginning the withdrawal effort, they also approved using up to $50,000 to cover costs. If the committee and voters decide to halt the effort, it is believed that most of that $50,000 will not be needed.

The committee has until April 2 to write an educational plan and negotiate with RSU 10 for an agreement. If it continues its effort, it must ask for a 90-day extension from the Maine Department of Education.

Ward said he believes the committee will have no trouble getting an extension, as long as the committee explains the need.

If there is an agreement to keep the high school open, residents must vote at the annual town meeting in June to end the withdrawal process.

RSU 10 has 10 schools and 2,800 students from the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford and Hanover. There are high schools in Dixfield, Rumford and Buckfield.

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