PARIS — Maine School Administrative District 17 has received state approval for funding to replace Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris and Oxford Hills Middle School, which has campuses in Paris and Oxford.

Interim Superintendent Heather Manchester told the board of directors Monday night that she was notified by Fern Desjardins of the State Board of Education that the projects have been approved for funding.

The schools are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, among 74 on the Maine Department of Education 2017-2018 Rating Cycle for the Major Capital School Construction Program.

The approval means the state will pay the bulk of the cost, Carrie Colley, chief financial officer for the district said Tuesday. “It could be five years” before actual construction, she said, because sites, designs and other steps leading to state and district approval must be done first.

She plans to attend a Maine School Management Association conference on new school construction to help prepare for the future building of middle and elementary schools.

“I have not received next steps yet . . . but as soon as I find anything out I will be sure to let you know,” Manchester told directors. “It’s very exciting. We have to get ready because it’s going to get very, very busy.”


The district applied for state funding for both schools in 2017, when then-Superintendent Rick Colpitts described both as old and inefficient. The wood-framed West Paris school was built in the 1890s. Oxford Hills Middle School on Pine Street was originally the high school and converted in the 1970s. Because of a lack of space, the district rents a building on Madison Avenue to house some students.

Both schools have had years of water damage and are expensive to maintain and repair.

Agnes Gray has 128 students in grades prekindergarten to six; the middle school 483 students in grades and seven and eight.

In other business at the meeting at the Central Office, several administrators and directors presented their first summary reports of the 2022-23 school year, with new hires, training, site assessments and school safety the dominant topics.

Oxford Hills School District Assistant Superintendent Steve Ciembroniewicz addresses directors Monday night in Paris. Chairwoman Natalie Andrews of West Paris, left, and Director Judy Green of Waterford listen. Nicole Carter/ Advertiser Democrat

Assistant Superintendent Steve Ciembroniewicz said his first month has focused on getting to know staff and visiting schools. He said 29 educators have trained as mentors to new teachers, which numbered 65 at the start of school. Other priorities include reviews of school building safety with principals.

Another recent hire, Facilities Director Michael Manning, reported the water-damaged gymnasium floor at Waterford Memorial School has been ripped out and will be replaced around Thanksgiving break in November. He said work continues to prepare for a modular classroom building at Otisfield Community School.

Among the projects the facilities department is working on are assessing and inventorying safety procedures at all schools, including door locks and sizes, which way they swing and their ages. He is also working to standardizing facility operations by building and doing a cost analysis for districtwide parking lot painting for the next fiscal year, noting these types of projects will improve safety and efficiency.

Chief Student Services Officer Jan Neureuther updated directors on new hires, including a school psychologist, nurses and a speech pathologist. Ads are out for two special education teachers and four special educational technicians. She said school nurses have started a cross-training program so each school will have two nurses with knowledge of student care and needs to provide backup to each other.

Colley said the human resources department has welcomed 73 employees and substitutes this summer and fall. She also has gotten clarification from the Maine Department of Education on the process to budget for student field trips, a topic of concern the school board addressed at its previous meeting.

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: