ST. GEORGE, Maine — Selectmen accepted a petition Monday night and agreed to hold a May 13 referendum asking residents to approve development of a formal plan to withdraw from Regional School Unit 13.
Selectmen also voted unanimously Monday to recommend a yes vote on the May 13 referendum.
Selectmen scheduled public hearings on April 23 and May 2 on the proposed referendum.
The petition was required under state law for the town to hold the referendum. The petition with 340 signatures was presented to selectmen Monday night by Terry Driscoll, chairman of the town’s education committee.
Driscoll said that while the referendum refers to withdrawal he considers it more as allowing the town to develop an alternative to RSU 13.
If the referendum question is approved, a four-person committee would be created to develop a plan to withdraw. The committee would consist of a town official such as a selectman, a school board representative from St. George, a member of the town education committee and a resident. The town also would have to negotiate terms of the withdrawal with the district and the state education commissioner would need to approve any withdrawal plan before it could occur.
Town residents would get a final vote in May 2014 or November 2014.
Sentiment for withdrawing from the district has been growing during the past two years, fueled largely by the RSU 13 board’s decision to move eighth-graders from the St. George School to the Oceanside High School West in neighboring Thomaston.
Town residents voiced concern in October about the impact of continuing budget cuts on education offered in the district.
In a nonbinding referendum in November, residents supported continuing with the process of separating from RSU 13. RSU 13 also consists of Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.
Education committee members and selectmen have met with superintendents from the Five-Town Community School District, made up of Camden, Rockport, Hope, Appleton and Lincolnville; and RSU 40, composed of Union, Warren, Waldoboro, Friendship and Washington. Committee members and selectmen discussed whether those districts could accept the approximately 100 high school students from St. George. Talks were positive, according to the town.