LUBEC, Maine — Wednesday’s town-wide vote decided the ultimate fate of the Lubec Consolidated High School, but it has left the school board with still some more work to do.
By just a 39-vote margin, voters authorized the SAD 19 school board to close the high school. The vote was 269-230.
“I knew it would be close, and it was close,” said Russell Wright, the chairman of the school board.
The board had voted 4-1 in April to recommend closing the school, but left the final decision to the voters.
The decision is effective for the coming school year, but Wright said it is not immediately clear what impact the vote will have on the budget. School officials had previously predicted that closing the school could save as much as $129,000 depending on where the high school students chose to attend classes next fall.
“Parents have the choice of where to send the kids next year,” he said. “We’re not sure yet where they’ll go.”
The 37 high school students will have the option to attend Shead High School in Eastport, Machias Memorial High School or Washington Academy in East Machias.
With the high school closing, four teachers, a guidance counselor, a guidance secretary and a high school secretary were expected to be laid off, according to previous reports.
Last week, voters in Lubec and surrounding towns decided by a 2-1 ratio to form an alternative operational structure (AOS) for the regional school systems. The 11-town district becomes effective on July 1, according to Wright. The budget vote for the AOS, covering central office expenses, is set for June 30, he said.
Under the AOS, the separate school districts will continue to operate their own schools and to oversee their own local budgets apart from the central office costs. The SAD 19 board has not yet adopted a budget for the coming year.
“We just formed the AOS. We were waiting for the vote on that and to see where the school ended up,” Wright said. “We’ve got to sit down as a board and see where we go from here. There’s a lot of decisions to be made now.”
Wright said he was unsure what will be done with the old high school. The Lubec elementary school is attached to the high school building and will continue to operate as a pre-kindergarten-through-eighth grade school. The high school wing, however, will not be occupied in the fall.
The decision to close the school was sparked by subsidy cuts to the school district of close to $600,000 for the coming year.
“It’s hard to lose a part of your town, but you have to do what’s best,” Wright said. “When you lose a half a million dollars, it hurts a small community. It’s hard to divide people up, to close part of your town, to move people out. That’s the hard part.”