OTISFIELD — Selectman Len Adler expressed concern at Wednesday night’s board meeting about shutting down a section of Route 26 in Paris for the annual Aspire Higher March by the Oxford Hills School District.

The march, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 22, supports students’ aspirations for higher education. More than 1,000 students, staff and community members march from Oxford Hills Middle School on Pine Street to Route 26 and head south to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. The walk, which has been held for more than a decade, takes about an hour.

While fully supporting the idea behind the march, Adler said the route is a main thoroughfare for workers between Montreal and Portland.

“I think it is asinine,” he said, to close the highway from about 10 to 11 a.m. “It’s absolutely incredible they will shut down that road on a weekday.”

Paris Police Chief Michael Madden said detours are set up so motorists can continue to drive north and south with little inconvenience.

“It’s only 30 to 45 minutes from Pine Street to the high school, one half mile,” police Sgt. Skip Mowatt said. The detour route is Alpine Street, Walcott Street and Western Promenade to Route 26. The detour will be in effect, at the longest, between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts said businesses have been very supportive about the shutdown.

“We work with the police departments in both Norway and Paris to ensure traffic impact is minimized,” he said. “We did complete a permit as required by Paris selectmen. I believe that businesses along Main Street are impacted for 45 minutes but have been very supportive in the past.”

Colpitts pointed out that the impact of the march is far shorter than the annual Christmas parade that closes Route 26 between Paris and Norway for more than two hours on a Saturday in November.

The march was started about 14 years ago as part of the school district’s aspirations campaign to encourage students and their parents to think about students’ futures after high school and how secondary education could play a vital role in their success.

In addition to the march, the school district provides opportunities for the community to support students in raising aspirations through community-based activities, such as college fairs and guest speakers.

Later in the fall, more than 60 Aspire Higher Scholarships, donated by Oxford Hills businesses and community members, will be awarded in assemblies at each district school. Each year, students who walk in the Aspire Higher March are eligible to enter a drawing for a $100 scholarship.

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