PARIS — After weathering a pandemic that kept students out of school for long periods and the exit of its polarizing former superintendent, Oxford Hills School District is looking to the community to forge its way forward.

Maine School Administrative District 17 is holding a public meeting tonight, July 28, at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in the Forum. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

From the slow return to normal in-person learning and staffing shortages following the coronavirus era to the fall-out of its superintendent being hired, suspended, investigated and resigning within 10 months’ time, district leaders are laying out the challenges currently facing Oxford Hills.

Key among those challenges is the need to replace three school campuses – Agnes Gray Elementary in West Paris and the north and south campuses of Oxford Hills Middle School, manage expenses during inflation, and continuing to improve student experiences.

Interim Superintendent Heather Manchester issued a survey for families and community members earlier this month, asking for input and feedback on several issues. They are: school construction and consolidation; a permanent superintendent search; student learning, student health and well-being; student behavior; and annual school budgets.

Respondents were asked rate the importance of these issues on a scale of one to four.

Manchester told the Advertiser Democrat that she received 162 responses to the survey. Parents or guardians of and Oxford Hills student accounted for 52.8% of the responses; 36.6% were community members who do not have children in school and 10.6% were students.

Respondents indicated the following as very important in their answers:
• School Construction: School Consolidation vs. Community Schools: 50.9%
• Superintendent Search: 51.2%
• Student Learning: 85.1%
• Health and Well-being of our Students: 83.3%
• Student Behavior: 77.8%
• The School Budget: 45.7%

The meeting will be moderated by John Jenness, a local retired attorney who has overseen other district meetings.

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