FREEPORT, Maine — The board of directors of Regional School Unit 5 sent the Freeport withdrawal agreement to the Department of Education on Wednesday with the intent to have it on the local ballot in November.
The School Board’s unanimous vote to submit the agreement to Education Commissioner James Rier followed recent finalization of the pact by the Freeport Withdrawal Committee.
“This agreement represents the withdrawal committee’s best and final offer,” Peter Murray, board member and Freeport Withdrawal Committee member, said.
If the withdrawal passes in November, it would take effect July 1, 2015. The agreement states “educational continuity” will be provided for all students in RSU 5. Freeport agrees to accept students who would have been enrolled in a Freeport school under RSU 5 for the 2015-16 school year.
Freeport also agrees to be the school of guaranteed acceptance for Pownal Middle School students for 10 years following the withdrawal. The Brunswick School Department has made the same offer for secondary students.
The withdrawal committee was formed after Freeport decided in October 2013 it wanted to leave the school unit it shares with Durham and Pownal. RSU 5 was formed in 2009 following a statewide mandate. Freeport residents voted last December to begin the withdrawal process.
The board noted prior to voting Wednesday that sending the agreement to the DOE doesn’t necessarily mean every board member believes Freeport should withdraw from the school unit.
Rather, it means the board agrees it’s time for Freeport residents to make a decision, assuming Rier approves the agreement.
“I think everyone in RSU 5 feels it’s in everyone’s best interests to move this in one direction or the other,” board member Michelle Ritcheson, of Durham, said.
Many members of the public agreed during the meeting at Freeport High School, saying they were tired of the agreement not moving forward. Many in the crowd of 50-60 people from all three RSU 5 towns said they wanted the board to approve it so it could be voted on.
“What this is really about is to bring something forward so we don’t have to drag this out another year,” Freeport resident John Lowe said.
“Now is the time. The DOE needs this agreement, and they need it soon,” Alan Tracy of Freeport said.
Rier either will approve the agreement or send it back for revisions. The November vote is unlikely if he does not OK the terms.