ORLAND, Maine — The old Orland Consolidated School soon will be put on the market as town officials seek a buyer willing to redevelop the 16-classroom school closed since last year.
More than 60 percent of Orland voters opted to shutter the school during a town meeting last May rather than owe RSU 25 an additional $329,000 to continue educating children in town. As a result, children from Orland began attending schools in Bucksport this scholastic year.
A special group, the Orland Property Development Committee, is completing a report to selectmen that will recommend possible reuses of the school.
Edward Rankin Sr., chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the board has begun discussions with a local real estate agent to start advertising the building and marketing it to potential buyers. While Rankin has personal preferences for what he would like to see the building become, he said the town is open to all options at this point.
“We will sit down and talk to anybody and just go from there,” Rankin said Tuesday.
Matt Brown, who is heading the property development committee, said one option that committee members believe could be a good fit for the building is some form of senior housing or an assisted living center. Rankin said that would be his preference as well.
Another potential market would be developers interested in opening a day care facility for children, adults or both, Brown said. Other options include low-income housing, offices or a retail market.
One possibility being discussed among some in the community is opening a charter school in the building. The Legislature passed a bill last year authorizing the Maine State Charter School Commission to create up to 10 charter schools in the state over the next decade, although those discussions are still in the very early stages.
The oldest section of the school complex dates back about 50 years but at least two additions have been made in recent decades. The complex also includes a gymnasium that may or may not be included in any sale, depending on the needs of the buyer, Rankin said.
“It’s been well maintained,” Brown said. “We are hoping that any buyer or developer that comes in is looking to redevelop it and not tear down the building.”
Faced with a nearly $900,000 reduction in state aid, the RSU 25 school board voted last March to close Orland Consolidated School as part of an aggressive cost-cutting budget. Orland residents were given the final say on whether to keep the school open. But under the town’s agreement with RSU 25, Orland taxpayers would have been required to foot the $329,000 bill to keep the school open.
Despite strong emotions tied to the school, Orland residents voted 469-281 last May to close the facility and send local students to schools in Bucksport this year.