ROCKLAND, Maine — Rockland residents voted 263-117 on Tuesday to close the MacDougal School.
“The school will be closed as soon as the school year closes in June,” city clerk Stuart Sylvester said at about 9 p.m. Tuesday after the referendum votes were tallied.
The RSU 13 school board voted in November to close the kindergarten through first grade school, which serves 144 students. Based on last year’s school budget, the board estimated the cost of keeping the Rockland school open at more than $363,000.
Rockland resident Jim Kilgour wouldn’t say how he voted Tuesday morning, but he said the possibility of sinking more money into the school convinced him to get to the polls.
“I think it will be a money pit and raise the taxpayers’ burden,” Kilgour said. “It will have to close anyway.”
Though her grandchildren don’t attend the school, Jane Welch, also a Rockland resident, said she wants to keep the MacDougal School open.
“I think little children should be allowed to be little children,” Welch said Tuesday morning. She does not support moving the younger children to a school that houses older ones.
Pupils at the MacDougal School will move to Rockland’s South School on Broadway. That school houses grades two through five. After the merger, South School will house kindergarten through fourth grade, and the average class size will be about 18. The South School fifth-graders will move to Rockland District Middle School.
James Kalloch of Rockland, who is on the school board, called the school reorganization work “minor” and said he was glad the city will save more than $300,000.
The $363,000 savings estimate does not include any of the merger costs, according to school board officials.
Superintendent of RSU 13 Judith Lucarelli said at a board meeting last month that the MacDougal School was in by far the worst condition of all the district’s schools. It would have been costly to keep it open, according to the school board. The district has had to replace the MacDougal School’s boiler, and several years ago the school had to address air quality issues from standing water in the steam tunnels, among numerous other structural concerns the school has had in recent years.
“I really believe our principals and our superintendent, that our kids will get a good education, that we are using our resources to the best of our abilities,” Ruth Anne Hohfeld, chairwoman of the school board, said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “Not that South School will be roomy — it won’t be — but it will be a good place to go to school.”
After the school closes, the building will be turned over to the city. The city could rent, sell or use the building. Alternatively, the city could reject the building, which would mean the MacDougal School building would go back to the school district’s possession.
Had the vote not gone through, the city would have had to add the $363,000 to the estimated $3 million 2010-11 budget gap.