TCTC may be able to rent Rockwood School for $1 a year

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    DEXTER — Tri-County Technical Center’s quest to start a wilderness pathways course to better serve students in the Greenville and Jackman regions is looking a little brighter.
    TCTC Director Patrick O’Neill told the regional council last week that a recent meeting with school officials in both communities and Shelley Lane, Maine’s superintendent of schools in unorganized territories, went very well.

    The group met at the former Rockwood Elementary School, which is roughly halfway between Greenville and Rockwood.
    O’Neill said that Lane told them that “if everything goes as planned, we could rent that building for $1 year. She wants it occupied. It’s in fairly good shape and she’s going to send us an estimate of how much it will cost to heat it.”
    The school’s heating system is zoned, O’Neill said, “So we don’t have to heat the whole building if we don’t use all of it.” Both superintendents are upbeat about the program, he added, and there will be a follow-up meeting next month with state officials.
    Rockwood Elementary School closed in 2009 when enrollment dwindled to two students.
    “If everything comes together, we could get the program started next fall,” said the director. “It would be a satellite program — funded under TCTC, but under the control of the school that operates it.”
    The program was first discussed earlier this year as one way to serve Greenville area students interested in conservation law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries management, forestry, outdoor recreation and tourism.
    Even though Rockwood is far away physically, students at TCTC in Dexter could still be “connected” to the programs there via electronic means such as the Tandberg video conferencing system, O’Neill added.
    O’Neill said that Greenville Town Manager John Simko “is very excited about the program. In fact, he’d like to have a public meeting about it. He thinks that there will be opportunities for students to get jobs right out of high school, once they have the proper certifications.”
    The TCTC Regional Council also heard presentations from Gemma Douglas, a human development graduate student from UMaine; and from pre-tech instructors Steve Hughes and Steffan Duplessis.
    Douglas outlined a proposal to start a sexual health program at the center because “we are seeing a need and we are frustrated without being able to fully address this need.”
    Statistics show that more than 50 percent of Maine high school students are sexually active and a great percentage of those will wind up with a sexually-transmitted infection (STI), she said.
    Education is the key, Douglas said. “At TCTC, we’re in a great position to do this because we serve six school districts in a wide geographic area,” she explained.
    Douglas suggested bulletin board displays, pamphlets and other information if requested by students. “We will be providing information in a serious way,” she said. “We’re not teaching students how to have sex; we are not promoting sex; we are providing students with the opportunities to learn healthy behavior in a safe way.”
    The board asked her and the center’s counselor, Brian Welsh, to fine-tune the proposal and bring it back to the Dec. 18 meeting.
    The TCTC pre-tech program is in its seventh year and serves many freshmen and sophomores who are at risk of dropping out of high school.
    Duplessis said that there are 22 pre-tech students and another 22 former students “who consider us their connection to the entire school. They check in with us from time to time – like seeing us during break time or coming into the kitchen to see what’s cooking.”
    While some students put in one or two years into pre-tech before being enrolled in the regular TCTC program, it’s not mandatory, said the instructors. “We’ve transferred students in mid-year if we feel that it’s best for them,” Duplessis said.
    AOS 94 Superintendent Kevin Jordan said that the pre-tech instructors “have done such a good job saving these students that we, in our local districts, have to make arrangements to help kids get enough credits to graduate on time. But that’s a good problem to have. Those were kids that were heading out the door.”

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