STRONG — At their last meeting of the 2016-17 fiscal year Thursday, the Regional School Unit 58 board started preparations for the new school year.
The board reviewed Superintendent Susan Pratt’s proposed plan to bring three eighth grades together as a single team at the end of each school year.
Pratt had suggested at an earlier meeting that before they start their freshman year at Mt. Abram High School, the eighth-graders have a district-sponsored transition retreat at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond.
The three-day, two-night trip would allow students from the three elementary schools, who often were competitors in school events, to bond as a freshman class.
The board also heard public comment from students and parents who worried that this plan meant the end of annual eighth-grade class trips. Each future eighth grade raises money over a four-year period.
Students are responsible for their spending money, but as a group they earn enough to pay for overnight stays, transportation, meals and tours and other associated expenses. They decide where to go and what to do, all within the district’s policies for allowable travel.
Tammy Bredeau, a Phillips parent, grandparent and educator, spoke of the contributions of students to the town during those four years. For example, during the Old Home Days week in August, they sweep Main Street after the parade and street dance. They take a lot of responsibility, and the town supports their efforts.
“Whatever we ask of them, they are there, and so are their parents,” Bredeau said.
The Phillips students’ trip to Canada, she said, may be the only time they will venture out of the country. Strong and Kingfield students have visited a variety of destinations. Parent Diana Thomas said the annual trip is something every eighth-grade student anticipates.
“This is an important milestone that we should continue to celebrate,” Thomas said.
Pratt explained that the team-building event at Bryant Pond 4-H Camp should not be interpreted as a cancellation of future class trips. These celebrations could happen during other times of the year.
“Students can go on their class trips during April vacation,” she said. “They may have to have more parents than teachers, but they still can go.”
Directors opted to postpone any decision until the July meeting.
In other matters, directors signed a three-year agreement with Maine Power Options, which will save an estimated $18,000 per year.
The board also reviewed insurance packages from three companies. Farmington-based Kyes Insurance provided the most competitive financial bid of $34,877 for coverage for the coming year.
They additionally agreed to contract with the firm WBRC Architects-Engineers, which has done many school system upgrades and renovations statewide. Work on the Phillips Elementary School and Mt. Abram High School will begin after the end of the school year.