The Agnes Gray Elementary School on Main Street in West Paris was built in 1895 as the West Paris High School and had additions in 1910 and 1923, and again in 1939 by the federal Works Progress Administration. It will be a topic at Thursday’s community forum by the Maine School Administrative District 17 administration and board of directors. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat 2020 file photo

PARIS — The Oxford Hills School District administration and board of directors will hold a public forum Thursday evening to talk about its five-year plan and the possibility of closing Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris and moving students to Paris Elementary School.

It will be held at 6 p.m. July 28 in The Forum at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. John Jenness will serve as moderator.

“This is a good opportunity for two-way communication” between the district and the community, interim Superintendent Heather Manchester said. “We are looking for input for strategic planning as well.”

Leaders are inviting residents of the eight-town district to share their concerns, ask questions and discuss moving the district forward.

The district includes Paris, Norway, Oxford, Otisfield, Harrison, Hebron, Waterford and West Paris.

The topic of consolidation focuses on the 127-year-old former West Paris High School on Main Street. It has emerged as a model of experiential and outdoor education for other districts.


Constructed in 1895, it had additions in 1910 and 1923 and in 1939 by the federal Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency that employed millions of jobseekers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads.

In March 2017, directors authorized then-Superintendent Rick Colpitts to submit an application to the state’s Major Capital Improvement program for the renovation or replacement of the three-story, wood-framed school.

Board Chairwoman Natalie Andrews announced at the recent board meeting that Maine DOE representatives will tour the school in the near future.

Ahead of the public forum, Manchester created an online survey on the district Facebook page for parents and other stakeholders to rate the importance of school consolidation versus the community school model; the search for a permanent superintendent; student learning; student health and well[being; student behaviors; and school budgets.

“We are focused on gathering and disseminating (data) from the survey,” she said. “The meeting format will allow for discussion and for a question and answer period as well.”

Manchester said she expects the search for a permanent superintendent is likely to be renewed in 2023.

The forum will also be an opportunity to regroup on the district’s five-year strategic plan adopted in 2019. It was stalled by the pandemic in 2020 and the resignation of former Superintendent Monica early this year.

With leadership in the district reestablished, Manchester said the team is ready to move forward with strategic planning.

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