Boothbay board seeks enrollment projections, urges trustees to set community discussion

Selectmen say schools' future depends on more students
Sat, 10/13/2018 - 7:30am

Boothbay selectmen want to discuss the Community School District’s future sooner rather than later. On Oct. 10, selectmen directed Town Manager Dan Bryer to seek enrollment figures for the next 10-plus years from the superintendent’s office and request a community-wide discussion about what future education will look like on the peninsula.

Concern was prompted in August when the trustees released a report about the aging elementary and high school buildings. A report indicated the 1956 high school and 1977 elementary school needed up to $10 million in safety upgrades.

The report resulted in Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor selectmen meeting with school officials to discuss it and mull possible ways to prepare local schools for the future. Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor selectmen agreed to review the 1955 charter enacted by the Legislature to govern the CSD. Last month, Boothbay appointed Selectmen Steve Lewis and Dale Harmon as their two representatives. The committee will meet after Boothbay Harbor chooses its representatives.

The committee would make a recommendation for voters in both towns to consider on amending or eliminating the charter. If voters approve any changes, the local state representative would sponsor a bill.

But the school committee will determine the larger question of what Boothbay Region education will look like. Whether to build a new school, repair the current ones, or tuition out students is under the purview of the CSD trustees, and Boothbay selectmen are wondering why no community meeting with all the stakeholders has been scheduled.

During the Oct. 10 board meeting, Boothbay selectmen reviewed a priority list which includes three options for immediate repairs to the two school buildings and a school board member’s memo listing possible options for future peninsula education plans. Bruce McDonald’s memo focused on five topics: Maintain what we’ve got, repeal and replace the charter, vision (with a community group to flesh out a new form of school), more school committee and trustee meetings, and creation of a five-town school consortium of the four peninsula towns plus Wiscasset.

Before any of McDonald’s recommendations could be considered, selectmen want to see enrollment projections and a meeting with all the stakeholders.

“Before we do anything we need to see the numbers. We can’t build a new school for 150 kids. If something is going to change I want to see it first, but we can’t make any decision until we see those numbers,” Lewis said.

Selectmen believe any changes to the school grounds and facilities are under the trustees’ purview and are surprised no meeting has been scheduled. Selectman Chuck Cunningham agreed with Lewis’ assertion that an upward trend in enrollment is needed before building a new school. For years, the CSD school population has decreased, and selectmen believe projections will help them make a decision.

“Bruce is on the right track, but it’s up to the trustees to take the bull by the horns and form this committee,” Cunningham said. “One of the questions we must ask is, 'Is this worth doing in the first place?' Then we can start considering what options are available,” he said.

Bryer said he’d call the superintendent’s office and request the enrollment projections and seek a date for a community-wide meeting. According to the Maine Principals’ Association website, Boothbay Region High School has 192 students for the 2018-19 school year.