ROCKLAND, Maine — The issue of whether the Rockland area school district will merge its two middle schools is on the front burner this week.

The district will hold the final of three public forums Wednesday evening. After that forum, the Regional School Unit 13 board will consider whether to take action on the merger proposal at its regular monthly meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the McLain School.

The informational forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rockland District Middle School.

The current proposal calls for merging the fifth, sixth and seventh grades into RDMS. Students who would attend Thomaston Grammar School would be sent to RDMS under the proposal.

Supporters say it will save money by consolidating operations into one school. Opponents say sufficient planning has not been done.

The board will also consider a proposal by the administration to return to the former starting times for schools. The district changed the starting times this year to 8 a.m. for middle and high schools and 9 a.m. for elementary schools. Previously it had been, and is proposed to return to, starting at 7:30 a.m. for middle and high schools and 8:30 a.m. for elementary.

Board Chairman Steve Roberts said the proposed change back to the former schedule came as a result of meetings between the superintendent and other district administrators.

Superintendent Michael Wilhelm said the change back was proposed because of concern from elementary school parents that their children were coming home in the dark and that the later elementary start time affected before-school child care and their ability to get to work on time. Concern from the secondary level was that adding a half hour at the end of the day meant students in afternoon athletic events had to leave classes earlier than in the past to get to games, impacting time in class, the superintendent said.

At the Thursday night meeting, the board will also receive the retirement notice from longtime music teacher Richard Walton. Walton began working for the district in September 1979 and has 44 years of teaching experience.