DIXFIELD — A welcome banner with the Western Foothills School District’s new logo will greet more than 600 employees entering the Mountain Valley High School gymnasium Monday morning.

It reads: “Welcome RSU #10 Family” above the logo, and the “Becoming One” below. Each employee will receive a T-shirt with the logo.

The 3,000-pupil district is comprised of the former SAD 43 in Rumford, SAD 21 in Dixfield and SAD 39 in Buckfield. 

“I’m very pleased that the anxieties are lowering and the excitement growing,” Superintendent Tom Ward said.

With the new district comes new programs and changes. Each region will offer a prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds. Buckfield had such a program, but the Mountain Valley and Dirigo regions did not. About 30 youngsters will take part in each region. The classes will be held at the Hartford-Sumner Elementary School, Meroby Elementary School in Mexico and the new Dirigo Elementary School in Peru.

By the time students return to classes Wednesday, Sept. 2, more than 30 new hires will be in their classrooms, many of them educational technicians. Positions remaining to be filled are: a social worker for the Mountain Valley region, a library technician for Dirigo Middle School, and library technicians for each of the schools in the Mountain Valley region. The Mountain Valley library technician positions are the result of a federal grant made to the former SAD 43.

Staffing in the Dixfield region is about 170; in the Rumford region, nearly 300; and in the Buckfield region, almost 130.

Some staff were transferred from schools they once served in as part of the merger of the three districts and the goal of not adding new people. Twenty-three people moved to different positions, with most of those transfers requested by the employee, Ward said.

The teacher-pupil ratio averaged an increase of two or three, he added, bringing the average class size between 18 and 20.

A decline in student enrollment in the Mountain Valley region results in just under 1,400, with a school breakdown of 533 at Mountain Valley High School, 270 at Mountain Valley Middle School, 252 at Rumford Elementary School and 330 at Meroby Elementary School. The Dirigo and Buckfield regions have remained fairly stable with 320 students at Dirigo High School, 230 at Dirigo Middle School, 360 at Dirigo Elementary School, 304 at Buckfield Junior/Senior High School and 320 at Hartford/Sumner Elementary School.

Other changes include:

• For the first time, every child in grades six through 12 will be issued a laptop computer. Those in grades seven and up will be allowed to take them home providing an insurance fee is paid.

• The district received $2 million in federal grants to provide an intervention system for families of special-needs students.

• Buckfield region vocational students begin classes Thursday, Aug. 27, at the Region 11 vocational school in South Paris. Dirigo and Mountain Valley students attend the Region 9 vocational school in Mexico.

• Every household in the 12-town district will receive a newsletter next week outlining many of the changes.

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The new logo for the Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10 was designed and created by Jeff Sterling, school board vice chairman; Kenny Robbins, district buildings, grounds and transportation director; and Valerie Valdez, graphics instructor at Region 11 School of Applied Technology. It will appear on a welcoming banner, T-shirts for all district employees, stationary and other papers from the district. The background combines the high school colors of the three former districts: navy blue from Dirigo in Dixfield, royal blue from Mountain Valley in Rumford and maroon from Buckfield.

Dirigo High School art teacher Dianna Dority prepares her classroom for the start of classes Sept. 2 in Dixfield. She has hung student artworks from the previous two school years to show to incoming students.

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