HOWLAND, Maine — Though they are unlikely to make the July 1 state-imposed deadline, SADs 31 and 41 and officials from towns around the school administrative districts will be discussing regionalizing when they meet today at Hichborn Middle School, officials said Monday.
The idea, SAD 31 Superintendent Jerry White said, is to see how good a fit the two SADs might be.
“Our goal is dialogue and [to] see if there is common ground and to see what educational opportunities [exist for] the two districts,” John Neel, chairman of the SAD 31 board of directors, said Monday.
“At this point there’s no agenda other than that,” White said. “I think we are in very early stages of how we can work together in a cooperative attitude. Hopefully, we can find commonality. That way we can see where we have potential for a regional effort.”
SADs 31 and 41 are among several northern Maine administrative districts that face state-imposed penalties if they don’t consolidate or regionalize by July 1, but no one thinks it’s possible to create a regional district by the deadline, Neel said.
Instead, both districts and the other towns that might participate — Greenbush, Lowell, Medford, Milford and Seboeis — have much in common and are looking to see whether consolidation would be feasible next school year, perhaps next fall.
White said he doesn’t foresee the law imposing penalties being repealed this spring, though there are several bills pending that would do that, if enacted. He said it’s more likely that a November referendum will focus on whether to repeal the entire state regionalization effort — if the anti-regionalization effort, which Springfield recently opted to join, gets that far.
SAD 41, which serves Atkinson, Brownville, LaGrange and Milo, also is 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 SAD 31 voters on Jan. 27. SAD 31 serves Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag.
SADs 31 and 41 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 has said.
The districts share tuition students from Medford and have similar student populations. SAD 41 has about 750 students and SAD 31 has about 650. The high schools are at least three-quarters to capacity, so neither would have to close.
In addition, Penobscot Valley High School is a state-of-the-art facility, thanks to a recent renovation.
Today’s meeting is at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room at Hichborn Middle School.