PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The second time proved to be the charm for the SAD 1 school department, which learned last week that the alternative plan for school reorganization it submitted for a second time to the state Department of Education had been approved.
A law passed in June 2007 requires that the state’s 290 school districts be reorganized into approximately 80 regional school units governed by regional school boards with the goal of streamlining operations and reducing costs.
As part of the plan, the Department of Education had recommended that SAD 1 join forces with SAD 32 in Ashland and Nashville Plantation.
In the meantime, SAD 1 submitted an alternative plan to stand alone as a district under the reorganization plan.
In November, voters in all 11 communities that would have been affected by the merger of SAD 1, SAD 32 and Nashville Plantation voted against the plan. The Department of Education also rejected SAD 1’s alternative plan.
After the vote, however, SAD 1 submitted another alternative plan asking for permission to stand alone again as a district. This time, the plan was approved.
“We are very excited about this, and we got word last week,” Superintendent Gehrig Johnson said Tuesday. “This has been a long haul for us. The voters in SAD 1, SAD 32 and Nashville Plantation spoke through their vote and let us and the [Department of Education] know that they did not like the plan they were presented in November. It was defeated in every single community, and we immediately filed another alternative plan.”
Johnson said he is not sure why the Department of Education did not approve the first alternative plan, since the district, under its plan to stand alone, would have just fewer than 2,110 students. A minimum of 1,200 students is needed under the law to form a regional school unit.
“We knew that several districts that were smaller than we were had submitted alternative plans to stand alone and had them approved,” he said.
The law also states that “existing school units should aim to form regional school units of at least 2,500 resident students.”
Johnson said that even though the district will stand alone, they still will look for collaborative partnerships and cost-sharing measures with other districts.
“We are still looking to form those relationships wherever we can,” he said.
The district would have faced a $730,000 penalty if it did not present an acceptable plan.
That possibility has now been lifted, Johnson said Tuesday.
SAD 1’s alternative plan does not require voter approval, according to the Department of Education.