MECHANIC FALLS — Work on RSU 16's strategic plan moved to a new phase Wednesday with the first of three community meetings being held at the Elm Street School.
Led by facilitator Craig Freshley of Good Group Decisions of Brunswick, about 35 residents, most from Mechanic Falls, were asked to consider the most significant challenges RSU 16 faces and how the district can improve the way it serves the community.
Suggestions included the restoration of music, foreign languages and gifted and talented programs that have been severely curtailed in the past few years. They also included greater flexibility in scheduling, developing mentoring programs and finding ways to bring students in the Poland, Mechanic Falls and Minot elementary schools together more often and for more shared common purposes.
Taking a look at the lengthy wish list, resident Bill Cormier changed the direction of the conversation by asking: “And how are we going to fund all this?”
Freshley, in turn, asked the group what items they deemed worthy of more resources. Kindergarten-through-second-grade music and adding a foreign language topped the list.
Discussion turned again when resident Carl Beckett said he was impressed with a mailing from the Adult Education Program that had material on what's going on in the schools.
“Why not a regular, maybe monthly, newsletter sent out to all people in the community?” Beckett asked.
Discussion keyed in on the idea that the best way to gather support for education in the district would be to draw the whole community into what goes on in their schools, showcasing the schools.
Closing the meeting, School Committee member Tina Love urged attendance at two more community meetings. They are at 10 a.m. Saturday in the multipurpose room at the Poland Community School and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Minot Consolidated School gymnasium.
“The plan has not already been made, but we have a nice platform to move forward on and these meetings are meaningful to us on the school board,” Love said.
Community surveys are available online through the RSU 16 website as well as at town offices in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland. The surveys should be returned by the end of January.