The next step in the expected consolidation of the Rockland and Georges Valley high school athletic programs occurred Thursday when the Regional School Unit 13 Activities Committee met to hammer out how to involve the public in the merger decision-making process for such details as school mascot, school names and sports uniform colors.

The decisions made Thursday by the committee are not official and will only be recommendations to the RSU 13 School Board as part of that board’s agenda for the Thursday, April 1 meeting.

The RSU 13 board previously voted to have the two high schools consolidate for fall 2011, which is the start of the school year. At that time, Rockland District and Georges Valley officially would be consolidated into one RSU 13 high school.

However, at this time, the plans are to have the three middle schools — Rockland District Middle School, Thomaston Grammar School and St. George Elementary School — remain as they are.

There has been debate on where children in certain grades will attend daily classes, probably with those in grades 10-12 attending classes at Rockland District High School and those in eighth and ninth grades attending classes at Georges Valley High School, but under the new consolidated school name.

The ninth-graders would then be eligible to play athletics for the new consolidated high school, while the eighth-graders would play for their respective middle school, or junior high teams.

At this point, it appears the younger children, including sixth- and seventh-graders, would attend the junior highs or grammar schools based in the areas they live.

Currently, the high schools are the orange-and-black Rockland District High School Tigers and the green-and-white Georges Valley High School Buccaneers

The middle schools, or junior highs, include the orange-and-black Rockland District Middle School Eagles, the black-and-white Thomaston Grammar School Clippers and the blue-and-white St. George Dragons.

The RSU 13 activities committee consists of chairwoman Esther Kilgour, George Emery, Josiah Wilson and Patricia Wotton. Also attending Thursday’s meeting were RDHS and RDMS athletic director Jim Leonard, GVHS athletic director Ed Hastings, St. George Elementary School athletic director Cheryl Worthing and RSU 13 Chairwoman Ruth Anne Hohfeld. Not present at the meeting was TGS athletic director Scott Herrick.

As currently planned, the eighth- and ninth-graders in RSU 13 will occupy a separate building from the 10-12-graders for academic classes. Concerning athletics, the eighth-grade athletes will play for their town’s middle school and don those respective uniforms. According to Maine Principals’ Association regulations, the ninth-graders would be required to play with the high school on the varsity and junior varsity athletic teams.

At Thursday’s meeting, the committee made recommendations on the process for selecting the mascot, colors and names for both the consolidated 10-12 high school and the consolidated eighth- and ninth-grade school.

The first point addressed at Thursday’s meeting was that both schools — for 10-12 and eight-nine — should share the same mascot and colors. According to the group, this would allow for more continuity between the schools. Furthermore, the committee noted the added benefits of exchangeable uniforms and gymnasiums in case of need.

The group also extended the logic to the school’s future name, which they said should be congruent except for a “high school,” “academy,” “prep-school,” or similar title placed at the end.

The committee also discussed the process for which the name, mascot and school colors would be chosen, with all present stressing the importance of community and student participation. “I think the public and students will certainly be involved in naming,” said Kilgour.

Kilgour said she hopes the school mascot and colors might fall into place once a school name is selected. Kilgour cited Georges Valley, which named its athletic teams after Buccaneers who would frequent the Saint George River Valley.

The committee would like to see an open process for submitting ideas on school name, mascot and colors. Their recommendation was to open the design process to the community, including students, who would submit ideas to the district.

If the RSU board approves the committee’s recommendation there will be a several-step process for selection ending Oct. 7, 2010 in time to order and receive uniforms to make the necessary preparations for the 2011 consolidation.

First, a selection subcommittee would be formed with the task of picking a number of top selections from the public’s submissions for name, mascot and colors. This subcommittee would include about 18 members made up of one student from each school, five in total (the current two high schools and three middle schools or junior highs), and one non-voting member from the school board to possible act as a chairperson. The remaining members would come from the community.

Once the subcommittee selects the pool of submissions, the public would be allowed to vote on the selection of mascot, name and school colors. The activities committee would like to see voting begin about six weeks ahead of the Oct. 7 selection deadline.

Decisions regarding these recommendations will be made at the school board meeting on Thursday, April 1 at McLain School. The board meetings traditionally are televised on Channel 11, educational access.

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.