LAGRANGE, Maine — A regional school unit of 15 towns, mostly in SADs 31 and 41, might eventually result from a meeting today at Marion Cook School, officials said Wednesday.
SADs 31 and 41 are among several northern Maine administrative districts scrambling to avoid state-imposed penalties that result from a state law, which would punish municipalities for not consolidating or regionalizing by July 1.
Yet that fact, SAD 31 Superintendent Jerry White said, doesn’t alter the fact that both districts and the other towns which might participate — Greenbush, Lowell, Medford, Milford and Seboeis — have much in common.
Both even have high schools with the same initials: Penobscot Valley High School of Howland and Penquis Valley High School of Milo.
“It’s a commonality of communities, purpose and proximity,” White said Wednesday of the potential match. “We don’t know what is going to happen. Tomorrow is a meeting of let’s get together to see if we have a commonality and is this something we want to move forward on. I don’t see any monumental decision-making made there.”
“It’s pretty late in the game now to get something done,” SAD 41 interim Superintendent Gilbert Reynolds said Wednesday. “We don’t really have a lot of time between now and the end of the [school] year.”
SAD 41, which serves Atkinson, Brownville, LaGrange and Milo, is also considering regionalization with SAD 68, which serves Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson and Sebec. The two tried to get together, but the effort failed in the Jan. 27 referendum. SAD 68 voted 371-265 in support of the plan, but SAD 41 rejected the plan 242-52 and SAD 12, another potential partner, voted no, 203-12.
SAD 31 tried to regionalize with SAD 67 and nearby towns, but that effort failed to pass with all SAD 31 voters on Jan. 27. SAD 31 serves Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag.
SADs 31 and 41 aren’t each other’s first choices. Both briefly discussed regionalization months ago, but opted for other plans. Still, with Milo only 20 miles from Howland using Route 6, the geography seems workable, White said.
The districts already share tuition students from Medford and have similar student populations. SAD 41 has about 750 students; SAD 31 has about 650. And the high schools are at least three-quarters to capacity, so neither would have to close.
“In this scenario I see nothing closing,” White said. “I don’t know what 41’s situation is, but we are not talking about closing schools. The only high schools in this area that can stand a large influx of students are in Millinocket and East Millinocket. Things are not likely to change much for the average student if we do this.”