PLEASANT POINT, Maine — Michael Chadwick, principal of the Beatrice Rafferty School on the Passamaquoddy Reservation, gave U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and a colleague in Congress an eyeful and earful when they toured the aging school building on Wednesday.
In the school’s music room, Chadwick pointed out where ceiling tiles get wet when it rains.
“We’d find plenty of mold in the building” if they looked, he told Pingree and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota.
Chadwick wasn’t the only one to point out the building’s problems.
“I teach in a closet,” Patricia Whitman, who teaches reading, told the two legislators.
Pingree and McCollum, accompanied by Ron Jenkins, superintendent of Maine Indian Education, toured the school for more than an hour with Chadwick as their guide. They visited classrooms and talked with teachers and students in the K-8 school, which serves about 125 Native American youngsters from the reservation and surrounding towns.
Pingree and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud announced in January that an estimated $18.5 million in federal funding would be approved to replace the aging, troubled school building. The omnibus budget bill included funding for just one Bureau of Indian Education School in the entire country — the school at Pleasant Point. The budget that passed included $1 million for planning a new school. The next budget will include $2.2 million toward construction, with the remainder to come in succeeding budgets, subject to approval.
In their earlier announcement, Pingree and Michaud said that the Beatrice Rafferty School has been on a list of schools targeted for replacement for 10 years. The school exposes students and staff to “dangerous and unsafe conditions,” they said.
Congress already has allocated funds to design the new school, Pingree noted after the tour.
“We’re just very anxious to make sure that all of the funding is there,” she said.
Pingree and McCollum both serve on a pertinent subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
“We wanted her to see the school,” said Pingree, referring to McCollum, “so when the committee goes back to the appropriations process, she’s just able to join in with me and say, ‘I’ve seen this school. There are enormous needs there, and we hope that this will [be funded]’”
“This school is already at the top of the list,” added Pingree. “It’s already clear that this is a critical funding need.”
The school is too small, has mold problems and “all kinds of complications,” said Pingree. “This is why the Bureau of Indian Education has made it the number one school for replacement.”