Schools in Owls Head, South Thomaston may be put on chopping block

Posted May 09, 2013, at 5:16 p.m.

OWLS HEAD, Maine — The two school board representatives for Owls Head and South Thomaston will meet with the public Tuesday evening to discuss the likelihood that the two small schools in those communities will be on the chopping block next year.

Regional School Unit 13 board members Sally Carleton of Owls Head and Christine Curtis of South Thomaston will hold the meeting 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Owls Head Central School.

Carleton said she and Curtis felt it was the right and important thing to do to make the communities aware of what is likely to occur.

“RSU 13 is going to be looking at every school,” she said.

Declining enrollments at Owls Head Central and the Gilford Butler School, the disrepair of the two school buildings, and the continued reduction in state aid all factor into the likelihood that those two schools will be proposed for closure next year, she said.

A final decision, however, would rest with residents of each community. State law requires a referendum and voter approval for an elementary school in a town or city to be closed. If voters were to override the vote of the school board, however, the town would be responsible for the additional costs of running the school in that community.

Carleton stressed that there would be many more meetings before a decision on closure would occur.

Owls Head serves third, fourth and fifth-grade students mainly from Owls Head and South Thomaston. The school, which opened in September 1952, has an enrollment of 79 students. The Gilford Butler School serves students in kindergarten, first and second grades. The school, which opened in 1954, has an enrollment of 85.

The only smaller school in RSU 13 is the Cushing Community School with 75 elementary students. That school, however, was built in 2003.

Carleton said she sees both sides to the issue of whether to close the schools. She served as principal of the Owls Head school for five years.

“I love this school,” she said.

RSU 13 has been struggling to reduce costs. In March, Superintendent Lew Collins proposed consolidating Rockland District Middle School and the Thomaston Grammar School, but that was rejected by the board.

However, board members acknowledged that future consolidations were likely.

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