BANGOR, Maine — Husson University will end its relationship with the Boat School it operates in Eastport at the end of the 2012 school year, which will allow current students to complete their studies.
Husson President Robert Clark announced the plan Thursday after it was approved by the university’s board of trustees at a meeting Wednesday.
“Husson University is proud of the progress that has been made to preserve employment and educational opportunities within the City of Eastport by rebuilding and sustaining the Boat School over these past three years,” he said Thursday. “When Husson assumed responsibility for the Boat School there were two students enrolled. Current enrollment is now at 30 students.”
Eastport Town Manager Jon Southern said that Clark drove Down East on Thursday to deliver the board’s decision personally.
“We’re very happy they made the decision to teach out the last year rather than moving elsewhere and disrupting students,” he said.
Under Husson’s management, the school has graduated 19 students, according to Clark. An additional 15 graduates — 10 in the two-year program and five in the one-year program — will graduate this spring.
All have completed a rigorous program of study that has prepared them well for entry into the marine industry, he said.
Husson has operated the boat school since the 2007 – 2008 academic year. The university leases the school from the town. Prior to 2007, Washington County Community College ran the Boat School.
Established in the 1960s, the school was located in Lubec and Calais before settling on the edge of Deep Cove in Eastport. Four years ago, the state transferred the land and facilities to the city of Eastport, and Husson replaced WCCC as the operator.
The Boat School’s future now appears to be in the hands of David Marlow, a luxury yacht manufacturer with facilities in Florida and Asia. Marlow plans to build a major manufacturing facility and create at least 100 new jobs in Eastport. He has offered to buy the school for $850,000.
A bill allowing Eastport to sell the Boat School to Marlow was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage last month. Marlow also plans to expand the Boat School to a four-year cutting-edge boat-building college, according to reports previously published in the Bangor Daily News.
Southern said Thursday he hoped he and other town officials would be able to show Husson that “moving forward with David Marlow would be a good option.”
Clark did not close the door on that idea but said Husson’s vision and goals are different than the Boat School’s.
“The main focus of Husson University is on professional programming and is not easily extended to the kinds of trade taught in vocational-technical schools,” Clark said. “There are other institutions in Washington County equipped and better able to do so.”
He said Husson has been contacted recently by other institutions about the possibility of their taking over the operation of the school, but he declined to name them.
One of the reasons for ending Husson’s oversight of the Boat School was financial resources, Clark said.
“The Boat School would not be able to sustain its excellent instructional program and would not be independently viable,” he said. “In addition, the City of Eastport has made it clear that it can no longer bear the costs of facility operations and that we would need to assume those additional operational costs.”
Clark said Husson was grateful for and appreciative of Eastport’s role in the partnership.
“The announcement by the city that a yacht manufacturer is interested in purchasing the city site associated with the Boat School and establishing a manufacturing facility with an apprenticeship program that could provide up to 100 jobs is an affirmation of our efforts to redevelop the school into a viable undertaking,” the Husson president said. “We feel the time is right for us to make a transition and move our resources elsewhere.”