Two grants will help school district

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DIXFIELD — In an otherwise gloomy budget development process, Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 has received some good news: Superintendent Tom Ward said the district received a grant that will continue the region’s efforts at improving the health of students and staff.

A grant of $66,500 from the Healthy Maine Partnership, with funding from tobacco settlement money, will allow the purchase of curriculum materials, training for health and physical education staff and the retention of Wellness Coordinator Laurie Soucy.

Soucy and part-time health coordinator Kathy Sutton were responsible for writing significant  Physical Education Program grants for several hundred thousand dollars used for the purchase of physical education equipment, ranging from workout machines to skis, in-line skates, canoes and other outdoor equipment.

Soucy coordinates all wellness activities for the school district. She said she is writing another Physical Education Program grant that would focus on the Buckfield area of the district.

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The first two grants were for the Rumford and Dixfield areas of the district.

“Because there were wellness coordinators, we were able to write PEP grants,” Soucy said.

She said she has seen a difference in the health of students since the original  grant was written in 2004.

Also, students will be safer when they walk between the central office and high school classroom space on Nash Street, to a point along Weld Street just north of the entrance to Dirigo Middle School. That’s due to a Maine Department of Transportation Housing, Schools and Recreation grant of $204,544 given to the town of Dixfield for the construction of sidewalks.

Soucy and Dixfield Public Works Foreman David Phair worked together on the grant, Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky said.

He said design work for the project would begin during the summer. The grant requires a municipal match of about $18,000 for each of two years. Townspeople will vote on that at the annual town meeting in May.

The school district is expected to finalize a 2011-12 operating budget next week, at which time several staff positions are expected to be eliminated.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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