LIVERMORE FALLS — RSU 73 Superintendent Kenneth Healey said Thursday’s Spirit Challenge gathering in the gym was the greatest thing he’d seen in his 17 years in education.

“Kudos to everyone,” he said.

Most of the Spruce Mountain High School students, teachers and many parents and other community members gathered at 5 a.m. in the gym for filming by WGME, the Portland television station that is sponsoring a Spirit Challenge for eight Maine high schools.

The purpose, along with building school spirit, is to raise money and food for the Good Shepherd Food-Bank.

Spruce Mountain High School Principal T.J. Plourde said $5,875, along with an as-yet-unknown amount of nonperishable food, has been donated by students, businesses and townspeople.

He said Thursday morning’s event was the most organized chaos he had seen.

“Kids and parents were also bringing in food,” he said.

The competition will continue until the end of October, and the winning school will be announced in early November.

To add a bit more competitiveness to the project, Mountain Valley High School in Rumford and Spruce Mountain have challenged each other to acquire the most donations.

Also, the district’s two elementary schools are participating by challenging each other to raise the most food and money. Livermore Elementary School had gathered 2,220 pounds and Jay Elementary School had collected 2,400 pounds or its equivalent in cash.

In other matters at Thursday’s board meeting:

* Newly appointed Livermore Falls representative Bert Poisson was welcomed. He replaces former board member Carmen Cullen, who resigned because her job required her to move out of town.

Plourde received approval from the board to ban the wearing of trench coats and other long coats in school.

“This goes back to Columbine,” he said. “We want to make sure this school is safe.”

* The board approved two foreign-language field trips as requested by teacher Maria Rier. About 35 French and Spanish students will travel to Quebec City in May for an overnight stay.

In March, foreign language students will take the first step in a language immersion exchange with students from St. Georges, Quebec. High school students will reside with students from St. Georges High School for five days. Later, students from St. Georges will stay with local students.

Rier said this it would be seventh time the two schools have participated in an educational exchange.

* Dan Lemieux, adviser for the high school robotics program, was approved for use of RSU 73 school buses for transporting the robotics team to competitions at the University of New Hampshire in March and to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in May.

The robotics team is holding a number of fundraisers to help pay costs associated with the program.

* The board approved early graduation for a junior girl.

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