AUBURN — As he made his way through shiny halls and up the stairs, seventh-grader Ridge Servidio, 12, looked smaller than the high school students he passed on his way to home room. So did eighth-grader Ryan Spooner, 13.

Never mind the jitters of a freshman starting high school. Monday was the first time that seventh- and eighth-graders went to school with high schoolers at St. Dominic Academy at 121 Gracelawn Road. A consolidation has sent Catholic junior high students to the high school; elementary grades remain at the Lewiston campus at 17 Baird Ave.

Monday was the first day of school for all students in grades 7-12; Friday was orientation day for new students in grades 7-9.

Spooner said he was both nervous and excited to be at the high school.

“It’s really overwhelming. There’s a lot of stuff to take in, good things to take in. … The whole building, the lockers, new combination.”

The high school setting will offer more privileges, he said, including no more uniforms, a more liberal dress code, more sports and activities.

Wearing shorts, a dress shirt and tie, Servidio said his class lineup included grammar, social studies, religion, math, literature. Going to St. Dom’s “feels good. I like it,” he said, adding he was a little nervous. “There’s all the older kids here. The school’s a lot bigger. The building’s a lot nicer.”

He was looking forward to more sport opportunities, lacrosse and hockey.

During a morning mass, students prayed and sang “Ave Maria” and “My God is an Awesome God.” A student assembly followed. Principal Donald Fournier welcomed the 322 students. The enrollment is up from last year’s 276.

“Good Morning St. Dominic Academy!” he bellowed.

Students cheered back.

Fournier offered students some guidance:

— Don’t let things slide.

— If feeling overwhelmed, talk to a teacher or administrator.

— Remember the “ice words” that guide the school: integrity, community and excellence.

— Bullying is not tolerated.

— Make everyone feel welcome, especially new students.

“We are here on this Earth to help each other. That’s really the main message Jesus gave us,” he said.

The consolidation, announced last year by Bishop Richard Malone, happened after falling enrollment caused by a tough economy, a declining birth rate, and fewer people going to church, which means less money collected to support Catholic schools.

Consolidating three schools into two resulted in some students not returning, “but we held onto most,” Fournier said. Tuition for seventh- and eighth-grade students attending the high school is $2,800, less than the high school tuition of $8,325. The goal was to keep tuition close to what the elementary school tuition had been, Fournier said.

In one seventh-grade homeroom, teacher Pat Milton went over school policies with students.

The dress code means boys wear dress pants, polo or shirt and ties, starting Sept. 7. Girls must dress modestly. No jeans are allowed; they must dress for success.

“We’re not part of the elementary school anymore. We’re part of the high school,” Milton said. They’ll get about an hour and a half of homework each night.

Going to school in the high school building is a huge change for seventh- and eighth-graders, Milton said.

“It’ll be a step-up academically. They’re very excited about having more sports,” she said. While they have to conform to a dress code, many are delighted they’ll no longer have to wear uniforms.

This is Milton’s 31st year teaching. Thirty of them were at the former St. Joseph’s school on Main Street in Lewiston. That building is now empty with a “for sale” sign in front.

Milton said she was pleased to be teaching in the high school building. “I’m happy we’re able to continue teaching in the Catholic tradition,” she said. “That’s what kept me here. The kids are great. The families are fantastic. Change is good.”

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