DIXFIELD – The Maine Department of Education has approved a 12-town school reorganization plan that will go to voters Nov. 4.

SAD 21 Superintendent Tom Ward said Friday afternoon that the plan devised by representatives from SAD 21 in Dixfield, SAD 43 in Rumford, SAD 39 in Buckfield and the town of Hanover was approved this week.

“For the Reorganizational Planning Committee, it’s a sigh of relief and a major sense of accomplishment. A major amount of time and energy has gone into this,” he said. It has taken 18 months for formulate the consolidation plan required by state law.

The proposed Western Foothills Regional School Unit would include the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru in SAD 21, Buckfield, Hartford and Sumner in SAD 39, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury and Rumford in SAD 43, and Hanover.

Residents of those 12 towns will soon see an informational brochure in their mailboxes outlining the cost savings, educational benefits, penalties if the plan is not approved, new board membership makeup and other data.

Much of that same information, with opportunities for asking questions, will be presented at public hearings Oct. 15 in Hanover, Oct. 21 in Buckfield, Oct. 22 in Dixfield and Oct. 23 in Rumford.

To devise the plan, the committee has spent about $12,500 in legal fees, which has come from the state. The partners also received $2,500 for incidentals. Some of that money may be used to mail the brochures.

If any district votes the proposed plan down, then the system would not be formed and consolidation plans would have to start again.

Ward said if the new school system is approved, residents will see some cost savings during the first year, 2009-2010, when the three administrative offices are combined into one.

He said statistics show that districts comprised of about 3,000 students are the most efficient. Student enrollment would be almost precisely that number with the merger of the three districts.

“I’m pleased with the effort of the Reorganizational Planning Committee. They have worked well together and have a developed a plan in the best interest of our children,” he said.

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