June 23, 2018
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RSU 19 wants to move forward with new school projects

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

NEWPORT, Maine — The Regional School Unit 19 board of directors unanimously voted Thursday evening to send a list of resolutions to the Maine Department of Education regarding the two schools the district has been authorized by the state to renovate or replace.

The proposal asks permission from the Department of Education to proceed with the new construction or renovation of Nokomis Regional High School and Newport-Plymouth Elementary School — both to be located in Newport, but with sites to be determined — or the new construction or renovation of a Nokomis junior-senior high school on Williams Road in Newport, with plans for consolidating schools within the district.

Last year, the state approved plans for the two schools.

Nokomis is 44 years old, while Newport Elementary is near 70, former Superintendent William Braun said in May.

“We’re still in the very early stages,” Superintendent Gregory Potter said to the board. “We have still not been able to secure support from the Department of Education to move forward with the hiring process of architectural services, which would certainly help us formulate some visioning activities within the communities and those kinds of things to really get this thing moving.”

The board also will ask the Department of Education not to limit the district by consolidating with other neighboring school districts or considering a construction site that is “not conducive to the accessibility of all RSU 19 students.”

The district says in its proposal that it “has considered and is willing to conduct further study of the possibility of constructing and governing a vocational technical regional program to service students within a defined geographic area, providing that” it doesn’t significantly add to the local cost of education, allows for maximum participation in programs offered within RSU 19, significantly enhances educational opportunities for students and allows for the district to lower costs through efficiencies gained through further consolidations within the district.

The proposal said the board is interested in studying the possibility of partnering with a community college or an institution in the University of Maine system to build a performing arts facility.

The board voted to send the proposal to the Department of Education with a cover letter and a request for a reasonably prompt response.

“There’s a fairly strong sentiment that the district is interested in proceeding in its project planning and is not interested in school consolidation [with other districts],” Potter said before the meeting on Thursday. “We’d clearly like to move on with a project and actually have the authorization from the department [to proceed].”

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