Future uncertain for Christian school in Machias struggling with fire code updates

Machias Valley Christian School, in operation since 1981, is in the building of Machias Valley Baptist Church.
Tim Cox | BDN
Machias Valley Christian School, in operation since 1981, is in the building of Machias Valley Baptist Church. Buy Photo
Posted July 10, 2014, at 3:14 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — A Christian school struggling to comply with fire code violations is urging parents to register their children by next week so it will know if it can hold classes in September.

Officials of Machias Valley Christian School have been exploring options to remain open since failing a fire inspection in April.

The school, which has been in operation since 1981, is in the building of Machias Valley Baptist Church. It is a mission of the church and serves about 85 students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. The church maintains the building.

School officials were notified in May that the building is not in compliance with the fire code for a school. Among other things, the building needs a sprinkler system, fire-rated sheetrock installed on most walls and new windows. Initial estimates indicated the three projects would cost from $150,000 to $250,000. School officials were given 120 days to comply. They also have been exploring moving the school to a different building.

“A lot of people have gotten discouraged,” Joan Carter, a member of the school board, said Thursday. She said some have enrolled their children in public schools. Carter referred to it as a “panic” response on the part of people who were discouraged by the results of the fire inspection.

“The rumor mill is bad, you know,” said Carter. “People think you’re closed.”

About 30 students have been registered so far for the 2014-15 school year, according to Carter.

In the past, the school has accepted registrations through the summer although it conducts a pre-registration in May. However, school officials distributed an email to parents Wednesday night with a registration form attached and asked for students to be registered by July 18.

In another development, Brian Campbell, the school’s administrator, recently resigned. Theresa Farnsworth, a teacher, also has resigned.

The board met with parents on Tuesday night this week. In an email to parents July 1 urging them to attend the meeting, the panel noted the departure of Campbell and Farnsworth and said the school board was “still intact” and working on plans for the 2014-15 school year.

“Because of the recent developments, plans to relocate the school to a new facility are being put on hold,” the email said. “We are looking to submit a corrective action plan to the fire marshal’s office for continuing to use the church facility for the 2014-15 school year. This is all contingent on parent commitment and finances.

“The school’s future depends on the commitment and active participation of dedicated families and churches. Your attendance at this meeting is imperative,” the email also said.

The board will make a decision by July 22, said chairman Rob Wood, who acknowledged that registrations have lagged.

“There is some uncertainty there with the facility and where that’s going to end up,” he said Wednesday.

School officials still are considering a different building, said Wood. However, that probably would not become a reality for a year.

“We’re just really encouraging those that are interested to contact us or to register so we have some good information by the 18th to make a decision,” said Wood.

Whether the school will remain open or what classes it would serve will depend on those children who are registered, he said.

 

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