OXFORD — Principals and administrators from across the eight-town Oxford Hills School District reported a smooth start to the new school year at Tuesday’s meeting of the board of directors. 

Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the district hired 68 employees since last year, almost 12 percent of the district’s staff. 

Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hartnett applauded the principals’ efforts to bring in the new hires and mitigate the “institutional memory” loss that can come with the departure of veteran staff.

Paris Elementary School Principal Jane Fahey said volunteers from Stevens Memorial Hospital’s physical therapy department were planning to attend the school three days a week to teach new games that emphasize fitness. She also remarked on a burgeoning relationship with Responsible Pet Care, which recently moved to a building across the street from the school. 

In Hebron, health and wellness was also on the radar, Principal Melanie Ellsworth said. Students still had a goal of becoming the “healthiest school in Maine” and were engaged with the school’s garden, she said.

Similarly, the Agnes Gray School in West Paris was planning a community 5K run and a walking school bus for the fall, Ellsworth said.

Otisfield and Oxford elementary schools were aiming to work more closely this year and share more between staff and students, Principal Kim Ramharter told the board. 

Oxford Elementary was also increasing its engagement with Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway and adding to the programming there, Ramharter said. 

Harrison Elementary and Waterford Memorial schools saw the smoothest transportation in the past few years, Principal Margret Emery told the board. 

Harrison Elementary students were also planning to use Roberts Farm Preserve, and both schools were starting a regular school assembly, she said. 

The assembly will be held weekly at Waterford and monthly at Harrison, she said. Different classes will present topics to their peers, teachers and parents, Emery said. The assemblies are one of the ways the school intends to build engagement with parents, she said. 

Oxford Hills Middle School Principal Troy Eastman reported an “amazing” start to the new year, the first for the split-campus model approved by the board last year. 

Middle school students are now on a trimester system, split into three themed units in two different buildings — the old middle school, or “north campus,” on Pine Street in Paris, and a refurbished building, the “south campus,” on Madison Avenue in Oxford. 

Eastman said that so far, students in the new building were enjoying their experience and the shake-up in classrooms and programming was encouraging further collaboration and partnership between teachers from different disciplines.

“It’s gone really, really well,” Eastman said.

“Kids seem to be happy, teachers are excited, it’s a little bit of a challenge to have two buildings, it’s a little bit different for us, but it’s definitely rewarding,” he said.

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