Proposed combined high school and college gets state attention

Posted Oct. 14, 2010, at 7:36 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A plan for a unique Maine school that would offer high school, vocational, community and university programming on one campus got a boost Wednesday when it was put at the top of a state funding list.

The state Board of Education voted unanimously to place the Many Flags One Campus proposal first in line for funding when money becomes available.

No funding is available now for the project, however. It is not clear where additional state aid for such school construction would come from under present budget conditions.

Nevertheless, RSU 13 Superintendent Judith Lucarelli said Thursday that being first in line on the integrated, consolidated 9-16 educational facility priority list is a giant step in what has already been a seven-year process.

The impact on the community, she said, would be huge. The school would serve not only the high school students in the six-town RSU but also students from 13 other towns in the midcoast area that now send students to a vocational school for some courses. This means high school students could begin working toward an associate or bachelor’s degree while finishing high school.

Also, the vocational, community college and university programs would be available to any community member.

Because this is a new concept, there is no budget line for it yet in the state education budget, according to David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Maine Department of Education. Only two proposals — the second from the Sanford area — have been submitted to the state so far.

Connerty-Marin said the education commissioner could recommend funding for the estimated $70 million midcoast school in the next education budget when the Legislature is back in session in January.

“[The commissioner] could recommend enough to cover both or she could recommend none. She could recommend any funding level,” Connerty-Marin said Thursday. “Funding is obviously very tight right now. That will be a backdrop for any decision.”

According to Lucarelli, the fastest a new building could be in use is by fall 2013. The timetable depends on funding, voting in the 19 towns that would be served by the higher education programs and construction time. The project likely will take much longer than three years.

The next steps at the local level include adding more people to the Many Flags steering committee and beginning a series of public forums about the project.

A Sanford area 9-16 proposal is similar to Rockland’s. It, too, incorporates community college, vocational and university programming in a high school.

The superintendent of Sanford Public Schools, Elizabeth St. Cyr, said Thursday that her schools also applied for funding through the more traditional school construction application process.

“There is no money in the innovative [9-16 education category],” St. Cyr said.

Rockland’s plan also was submitted through the capitol construction application process.

St. Cyr said the Sanford project would cost about $90 million.

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