MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — The decision was finally theirs, and on Tuesday night 179 of the town’s residents made it, opting to close an old and favorite school for generations of townspeople.
The decision arrived in convincing fashion with 114 residents voting “no” to the question of whether they would want to keep Dr. Carl Troutt School open for another $367,163 annually from the town’s coffers. Sixty-five voted “yes.”
“We all have the same feeling,” Town Clerk Cloris Richards said Tuesday. “We hate to close the school.
“It’s going to be sad to have to close it and make our kids go to Lincoln. So many of our kids have gone there for so long. We just knew that it would probably be impossible for us to be able to pay the difference. It would have made our taxes go up so much,” she added.
The election effectively ratified a 7-1 vote with one abstention by the SAD 67 Board of Directors on Jan. 21 to close the elementary school for the 2009-10 year. The board cited an expected state funding shortfall and increasing costs associated with the school’s maintenance.
Troutt is one of the oldest, least-populated and most expensive school buildings to maintain in SAD 67, which serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag. The school has 49 students, while the Ella P. Burr School of Lincoln, the district’s other elementary school, has 392. Mattanawcook Junior High School has 367, and Mat-tanawcook Academy, 448, school statistics show. The latter two schools are in Lincoln.
According to figures compiled by SAD 67 Superintendent Michael Marcinkus, keeping Troutt open would mean maintaining per-pupil costs double those at Burr. Troutt pupils will go to Burr, where portable classrooms will be built, in September.
Residents accepted the reality board members perceived, said Bion Tolman, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, but they weren’t happy about how it was handled. According to Tolman, Marcinkus offered to send Mattawamkeag students to another school administration district before town officials knew.
But the 68 percent tax increase that would have kept Troutt going was more persuasive than any ire, Tolman said. The only hope for maintaining the school would have been if another town had joined RSU 67, the new regional school unit of SAD 67, but that didn’t happen.
“It would have been especially hard on the elderly,” Tolman said of the increase.
The school board, which owns the building, will decide what happens to it, he said. The board is expected to discuss the building when board members meet at 7 p.m. today at Mattanawcook Academy.
According to Tolman, board members could opt to keep the building, give it to the town or sell it through a realtor or through auction.