FORT KENT, Maine — The SAD 27 board of directors last week voted to bring all district grade seven and eight students into Fort Kent Elementary School to create a new middle school.
“The board has been basically wrestling with this issue for a year,” SAD 27 Superintendent Patrick O’Neill said. “It’s really a reflection of a shrinking student population.”
Students from St. Francis and Eagle Lake will begin attending classes in Fort Kent next fall.
Currently 65 students attend the St. Francis Elementary School in kindergarten through grade eight with six moving up to grades seven and eight next year.
In Eagle Lake, a dozen of the school’s 94 students will enter those middle school grades next fall.
“When you look at those numbers, it just makes sense to put the middle school students in Fort Kent,” O’Neill said.
The Fort Kent school’s enrollment stands at 480 with 141 in grades seven and eight.
“Overall we’ve seen enrollment decline around 30 percent over the past several years,” the superintendent said. “It’s pretty much the same throughout the St. John Valley.”
The Fort Kent Elementary School building was constructed with a middle school in mind, O’Neill said, and the students will attend classes in the C wing.
“It also has social implications,” O’Neill said. “The students will be in a more appropriate age group, [and] being in Fort Kent will enrich their educational and social settings.”
Bus runs from Eagle Lake and St. Francis will remain the same.
“We are ready to welcome these new students,” Fort Kent Elementary School Principal Gary Stevens said. “We are really excited to have them here, and I know we can make this work.”
According to O’Neill, though some teachers may be transferred to different classrooms as a result of the new middle school, no layoffs are projected as part of the plan.