HODGDON, Maine — It’s official. By a split vote of the SAD 70 board of directors, seventh- and eighth-graders will be moving to the high school at the start of the next school year.

At a Feb. 8 meeting, the board voted 5-4 to move forward with the relocation. The district has been debating the concept of moving the two grade levels for about a year.

“There was a good discussion by the board on this subject,” SAD 70 Superintendent Scott Richardson said. “I have already heard from one of the board members who opposed it, and they are willing to move on for the betterment of the district.”

The superintendent said it should only cost the district about $30,000 to renovate the classroom space to create dedicated seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms. But the district thinks it can save $100,000 in next year’s budget by making the switch. That savings comes from the elimination of the Mill Pond Elementary assistant principal position and a special education teacher.

The school district serves nearly 500 students in all, from Hodgdon, Amity, Cary Plantation, Haynesville, Linneus, Ludlow and New Limerick. As of January, there are 38 seventh-graders and 37 eighth-graders at Mill Pond School in Hodgdon. Total enrollment at the elementary school, which currently serves pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade students, is 333. There are 142 students at Hodgdon High School.

Currently, some teachers from the high school must go over to Mill Pond School to provide instruction to the seventh- and eighth-graders.

A subcommittee composed of parents, teachers and administrators spent several months investigating the possible move. The panel did not give an opinion on where it felt the students should be located, but instead listed the pros and cons of such a move.

At a public hearing on the proposal on Jan. 20, most of those in attendance expressed concerns and opposition to moving the seventh- and eighth-graders for a variety of reasons. Some asked how the students would be separated from the older high schoolers, while others questioned how much money would be needed to renovate the high school.

Richardson said the next step is to come up with a schedule for when the renovations to the high school will be done during summer break to accommodate the new students.

The plan is to house the seventh- and eighth-graders on the first floor of Hodgdon High School. One boys’ and one girls’ restroom will be created so the students do not have to use the same facilities as the high schoolers.

Richardson said the next step is to start working on how lunch schedules will be handled. The plan is to keep the seventh- and eighth-graders separated from the high schoolers as much as possible, he added.

“We will plan all the little details and specifics,” he said. “We will be rolling out all that information for parents as soon as we have it. I encourage parents or students who have questions to ask their principals or myself.”