LINCOLN, Maine – A classroom is a classroom, not a billboard, at least according to Mattanawcook Academy students polled by Associate Principal Rick Meyers.
Meyers polled students and student-athletes upon direction from the RSU 67 board of directors. His goal: to see how the students felt about allowing the school’s athletic boosters and other businesses to advertise themselves within school walls.
“There were a few students that were all about saying, ‘Let’s sell some space in the school and bring in money for the sports programs,’” Meyers told the school board during a meeting Wednesday night at the school.
But most students felt differently, even about advertising banners left hanging in the gymnasium or at school athletic fields.
“They felt it was their classroom,” Meyers said of the gym.
The students regard the ads as intrusions into their space — space that is reserved for a serious pursuit: learning. Meyers, who is also the school’s athletic director, said a student asked if he would like someone hanging a banner in his office.
“I wouldn’t,” Meyers said.
Even students who don’t participate in athletics disliked the idea of advertising banners hanging in the gym, said Courtney Shaw, a student representative to the board.
Students welcome community support for all of their activities, Meyers said, but want it expressed differently. He expected that this stance would present a problem if businesses want to advertise at athletic fields, particularly on baseball field fences, which is common.
Board members said they were impressed with the students’ thoughtfulness. “I think it is wonderful that we had a chance to hear their perspective,” board member Debra Tardy said.
Board member David Shannon suggested that businesses could show their support for school activities by advertising in seasonal or specific-sport programs or fliers.
Meyers didn’t mention how many students he polled during his presentation. He did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Thursday.
The only ads in the gymnasium, Meyers said, are from Pepsi and came with Pepsi-sponsored scoreboards as part of a contract to keep them there for eight years. That contract has lapsed, Meyers said, but removing the ads would mean buying new scoreboards.
Mattanawcook Academy serves high school students from Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag.