LUBEC, Maine — Voters Tuesday approved an advisory referendum to close the town’s high school by a vote of 288-197.
Although voters decided the question Tuesday, town officials did not count the votes until Friday because of the push to get the results of the federal and state elections completed.
In August, the school board appointed a study committee to look at the question of closing the high school. Over the past three months, the study committee collected information on operating the high school vs. the cost of sending students to another school. The committee planned to report its findings to the school board the Thursday after the general election, then hold a public meeting so that people could review the report. The school board then would schedule the vote on the future of the high school at the same time in December that residents will vote on the town’s projected alternative organization structure, which was demanded by the state as part of its regionalization of central offices for schools.
However, one study committee member believed it was logical to put the question before voters Tuesday because of the higher-than-expected turnout.
Lubec’s high school has 42 students, four classroom teachers and one each for art and physical education. There also is a principal and a special education coordinator.
Along with their votes, residents were asked to comment on why they had voted the way they did.
Those who were against closing the school clearly wanted it to remain open at any cost. “If people want to lower taxes, move out of Maine,” one voter wrote.
“I want the school to stay open at any cost, always,” another individual wrote.
One resident suggested that only people who have lived in Lubec for at least 10 years should be allowed to decide the question.
Another opponent seemed to echo the feelings of others that more information was needed before residents could make an informed decision.
But a solution offered by one voter was to bus students in from Trescott, Perry, Pembroke, Dennysville and Whiting to Lubec. Those students already are being bused to other high schools in the area.
Advocates of closing the school said that the high school did not offer enough opportunity for the students. “Keeping it open is about jobs, not education,” one proponent wrote.
And there were other comments: “It’s long overdue,” “Our taxes are too high,” “If this was a private business, it would have been closed five years ago,” three voters wrote.
One advocate for closing the school had a full page of comments.
“Lubec is not the same HS as years ago, nor is our community the same bustling town it was once. Our student population is dwindling and unfortunately we cannot realistically afford to offer courses that the students need to succeed in this ‘global economy,’” the writer said.
The students, the letter went on to say, have a difficult time adjusting to “life beyond Lubec and drop out of college.”
While opponents of closing the high school suggested that people with children would not move into town if it did not have a high school, the writer said that families have moved out of Lubec rather than send their children to the high school.
The results of the vote and the citizen comments will be presented to the school board at its next regular meeting.