FORT KENT, Maine — It was “a sad day for both SAD 27 and the St. John Valley,” SAD 27 Superintendent Pat O’Neill said Thursday, as the district received word that its director of finance and projects, James J. Grandmaison, had died suddenly Wednesday during a trip to Italy.

Grandmaison was 56 years old.

“We are all shocked, just stunned and saddened,” O’Neill said Thursday. “Jim was young and in great shape. He was very active. We’re just stunned that he left us so suddenly.”

Grandmaison had worked for the school district for more than 15 years, according to the superintendent. The avid cyclist had been planning a trip to Italy with friends for the past six months.

“He just left for Italy on Monday and got there on Tuesday,” said O’Neill. “On his second day there, he finished a short bike trek and collapsed. He couldn’t be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene.”

All of the faculty and staff in the district have been notified, according to O’Neill, but many of the students have not heard the news because schools in the region are out for potato harvest break.

“Jim was not only a great asset to this district, he was a very strong member of the community,” O’Neill said. “He was the music director for his church and had done a lot for the St. John Valley in terms of consolidation. He was very active in helping us through that process. This is just a tragedy.”

District officials had spoken to Grandmaison’s family, he added.

O’Neill said that it would take eight to 10 days for Grandmaison’s body to arrive back in the United States. Funeral arrangements are pending.