June 25, 2019
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Judge rules again that district must pay for students to attend out-of-town middle school

Submitted photo courtesy of the
Submitted photo courtesy of the
Regional School Unit 21 Superintendent Katie Hawes speaks from the podium during the 2017 announcement of an agreement to allow district high schoolers to earn credits at the University of New England. Susan Gray of the University of New England and Sue Cressey, far right, of Kennebunk High School stand in support. (Submitted photo courtesy of RSU 21)

KENNEBUNK, Maine — For the second time in two months a Maine Superior Court judge has affirmed the right for Arundel middle school students to attend Thornton Academy Middle School at the expense of Regional School Unit 21, however a ruling in the district’s final appeal to the state Supreme Judicial Court is still months away.

On Oct. 5, York County Superior Court Judge Wayne Douglas ruled in a lawsuit filed by a group of Arundel parents and Thornton Academy over two years ago saying that under the 2007 School Reorganization Law, the Maine legislature intended to preserve school choice in towns that previously allowed it.

The RSU 21 Board of Directors subsequently voted to appeal the decision and filed a motion asking the court to amend and reconsider its ruling.

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In the ruling on the motion to amend, handed down this week, Douglas denied the motion saying his ruling follows the legislatively enacted statute preserving school choice under the School Reorganization Law.

Douglas also denied the RSU’s request to add over 100 pages of information to the record saying much of it wasn’t relevant to the case.

RSU 21 Superintendent Katie Hawes said Wednesday that the latest ruling was not unexpected, and the district will continue to pursue its appeal.

[Judge rules RSU 21 will have to pay for students to go out-of-town]

In his denial of the motion, Douglas said the district’s argument that Arundel students didn’t have choice because there was only one contracted school for middle school students prior to consolidation was not relevant to the decision.

“It would be immaterial whether the Town of Arundel in 2006 had entered into multiple (non-exclusive) contracts with two or more private schools and/or school administrative units rather than the single (exclusive) contract with Thornton Academy to provide for the out-of-district education of it’s middle schoolers,” Douglas said in the latest findings.

District lawyers from Drummond Woodsum have told the RSU board that a ruling on its appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court could take up to a year.

 



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