RSU 10 board explores cost-cutting measures

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DIXFIELD — The RSU 10 board Monday discussed shifting some students to other schools and eliminating portable classrooms in order to reduce operating costs.

The plan calls for closing or reusing a portion of the shop wing at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, sending eighth-grade students from Mountain Valley Middle School to the high school, and eliminating all five portable classrooms at Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield and Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico.

Sumner board member John Phillips suggested that a survey to measure oil and electricity use needed for each pupil in each building could help the board decide what steps to take.

No buildings were earmarked for closure at this time, and no votes on any of the suggestions were made. However, the board did agree that Superintendent Tom Ward should apply to the state for construction of an elementary school to replace Rumford Elementary School and Meroby Elementary School in Mexico.

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Getting on the state’s school construction list early is necessary because of it takes five to six years for a decision.

In the meantime, the board devoted its time after the regular meeting to finding short-term projects that could go into effect for the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

Byron board member Judy Boucher suggested the board look at the Buckfield model that operates one building for prekindergarten through grade five and one building for grades six to 12.

Other ideas that could save money in the short-term include making Mountain Valley High School more energy efficient, moving the Dirigo Middle School sixth-graders to Dirigo Elementary School, and sending Canton elementary students to Hartford-Sumner Elementary School in Sumner.

Ward said with loss of nearly $160,000 in state aid for this fiscal year, future state aid will likely be decreased. RSU 10 must find ways to significantly reduce operating costs. The 2012-13 budget is $35.1 million.

Ward said the administrative team, primarily the principals of each of the 10 district schools, will meet prior to the Jan. 28 board meeting.

“We want the administrative team to dissect the ideas, then come to the board with recommendations,” Ward said. “Remember, it’s not popular to redistrict.”

In the meantime, for long-term planning, the board and administration will continue to look for ways to make changes that produce significant savings regionwide.

The district includes the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford and Hanover.

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