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Teachers packing East Millinocket grade school into high school

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Title 1 teacher Gail Rucci unpacks boxes of books as she and other teachers and volunteers help move Opal Myrick School into Schenck High School of East Millinocket on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Volunteers willing to help move the innards of the closed Opal Myrick School into Schenck High School are welcome, but they had better hurry.

Thirteen volunteers who came to Myrick helped move close to a half-dozen classrooms worth of furniture, equipment, books and other teaching supplies into a wing at Schenck on Monday, helping move the transfer schedule up at least a day, Assistant Principal Tracey Nute said.

“I thought we would be at this point in September,” Superintendent of Schools Quenten Clark said.

The School Committee voted 5-0 in April to close the school, citing the closure of the paper mill on Main Street and an anticipated massive revaluation of the mill that would occur even if the mill were revitalized.

Though a lovely building, Superintendent Quenten Clark estimated that the closure of Myrick would save $150,000 in operational costs alone. He listed several problems with the building that make it costly to run or renovate, including asbestos floor tiles, a lack of disability access and an aging heating system that consumed about 16,000 gallons of heating oil.

Closing the school, Clark has said, likely would preserve teaching positions and programs while addressing the enrollment decline that has almost halved the student population over the last 10 years.

Under Clark’s proposal, Myrick would close by Sept. 1 and its kindergarten to fourth-grade pupils would attend Schenck, which would be remodeled to accommodate the Myrick pupils. Medway Middle School would continue to accept pupils in grades five to eight. The remodeling would reduce but not eliminate the commingling of the Schenck and Myrick students, he said.

The educators interviewed Monday saw little problem with combining students of such different ages or with moving into Schenck.

“I think it’s going to be really good,” third- and fourth-grade teacher Donna Doody said of combining Myrick and Schenck grade- and high-school populations. “All of the kids at the high school I have had in the past, and I can see a lot of them helping the younger kids in class.”

“They [high schoolers] will get a lot out of it,” Doody added. “If they are thinking about going into teaching, they will get a chance to see what it’s like. A lot of kids get two years of college under their belts before they find out that it isn’t what they expected.”

Kindergarten teacher Julie Powers agreed.

“I think some of the older kids would rather help the younger kids with their work and get credit for it rather than sit in study hall,” Powers said.

In a small town such as East Millinocket, most of the teens and smaller children know each other anyway, Doody said. The younger school population will likely benefit from the use of equipment available at the school.

Myrick was far roomier than Schenck, but the Myrick staff has found enough room to perform efficiently, Nute said. Schenck is also accessible for physically disabled students, which Myrick largely wasn’t.

The Schenck staff has very much welcomed their colleagues into the building, Nute said, and the volunteers ― especially from Gilman Electrical Supply of Medway, which donated two workers and a large truck that had an hydraulic lift — made a huge difference with the move.

“That could have been a very negative thing, but everybody has had a very positive attitude and a willingness to pitch in,” Doody said.

The move is scheduled to be finished by Friday, but might end sooner. Anyone interested in helping during the rest of the week can visit the school from 6 to 10 a.m. or can call 746-3500 for information, Nute said.

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