RSU 10 Board Director Chad Culleton and his wife, Bridget, attend the RSU 10 community forum Tuesday at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School to discuss upcoming changes for the district’s Nezinscot Region schools. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

BUCKFIELD — Regional School Unit 10 held a forum Tuesday at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School to discuss changes to the Nezinscot Region schools that would allow all students to return to full-time in-person learning this fall.

In order to meet that goal, the district needs a lot more space and staff because the schools will continue to adhere to guidelines from the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Those guidelines currently call for wearing face coverings and maintaining 3 to 6 feet of distance between people depending on circumstances.

According to Superintendent Deb Alden, the district must follow the guidelines in order to receive D.O.E. funding earmarked to cover expenses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. “Starting back last March of 2020, we bought (everything) from masks to cleaning supplies to ventilation in rooms, air conditioners, extra materials so kids could have them at home, computers; anything we’ve done like that has been totally through the relief funds,” Alden said.

This fall in the district’s Nezinscot Region, which includes Hartford-Sumner Elementary School in Sumner and Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, officials say they will need to purchase a four-classroom portable building to create space for its sixth-grade students and add three more teachers for grades 6 through 8 classrooms.

At BJSHS, the district plans to lease a double-wide trailer to be used for additional lunch-time space and for space to use for small groups during other times of the day. The elementary school plan is to move the sixth-graders from the school to a modular building, most likely to be placed near the middle school.

During Tuesday’s meeting, several educators from the Nezinscot Region spoke via Zoom conferencing to ask how the spacing changes at the school will affect students. HSES teacher D’Ann Savage said that fifth-grade students who may be sent to the middle school in Buckfield would need more time to transition to the middle school schedule where they switch from classroom to classroom. That change “needs to be thoughtfully done.”

Meghan Andrews, also an HSES teacher, told the board she felt that the sixth-grade students should remain at the elementary school this fall. She noted that the mobile building could be placed on the tar near the building and that keeping the students at the elementary school would be better for them overall.

The building, grounds and transportation director responded to Andrew’s suggestion. Scott Holmes said using the tarred area would take up space used for the playground and for buses to drop off and pick up students.

Chad Culleton of Hartford, a member of the Board of Directors, said that his children include an eighth-grader and a fifth-grade student who will be involved in the sixth-grade transition this fall.

“These students have had a lot of change and a lot of inconsistencies, and the teachers as well, and I think ‘what can we do that has the least amount of impact on the students and teachers’? And I wouldn’t think that moving the sixth grade up (to the middle school) would be that.”

Changes in space and additional buildings needed for the district’s four school buildings in Rumford and Mexico will also be discussed and voted on during the RSU 10 school board meeting Monday at Mountain Valley High School at 6 p.m.


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