REGION — When the 3,400 or so students in School Administrative District 17 return to school next week, they can expect to see a few changes and improvements, as well as a few new faces. The first day of school for students in K-7 and 9 is Aug. 28. Grades 8 and 10-12 return the following day. Pre-K begins Sept. 3.

A major capital improvement project at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway is not yet complete but plans are in place to ensure teachers and students can return to the classroom next week.

The project includes the replacement of a 50-year-old inefficient heating system.

“We are also adding air conditioning, which is important for educational purposes,” said Superintendent Rick Colpitts. “When it is 80 degrees outside, it can be 90 degrees upstairs. We are pretty excited about it. It’s going to make for a better learning environment.

“This has been a big project,” Facilities Director Dean Dillingham said. “They still have a long way to go. There was a delay in getting the ventilators. They had 34 or 36 units coming from Mexico. We have 10 of them.”

The contractor will switch to second shift next week in order for teachers to get into the building and so work does not interfere with school, he added.

“The contractor has communicated with us really well about what needs to happen,’’ said Principal Doug Kilmister. “The teachers are excited to get back in their classrooms as soon as they can.”

Dillingham said the work is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Colpitts said a roof replacement project at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School is “coming along beautifully.

Dillingham said the high school project is more than halfway finished and is expected to be completed by the end of November.

Roof work at Otisfield Elementary School has been delayed until next summer, he added.

“By the time contracts were assigned, the crew was already booked,” he said. “They said it was a 14-week project but they expect to have more workers next summer so it may go quicker.”

LED lighting upgrades were completed at Rowe, Paris Elementary and Harrison Elementary schools.

“We had a lot of work going on this summer and have been very busy,” he said.

All projects were expected to be completed within budget, he added.

“Everything is moving along nicely,” Colpitts said.

New administrative staff includes Kilmeister, Oxford Hills Middle School Principal Brian Desilets and Special Services Director Jan Neureuther. Former OHMS Principal Paul Bickford has taken over as Director of Maine Region 11 Vocational program.

“We still have a few positions to fill but we are closing the gap,” Colpitts said. “We are struggling to fill positions, as are all districts around the state. We are working hard to find well-qualified people to be in our classrooms.”

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