A meeting of the Fort Kent Town Council on Monday, Feb. 10. From left: Dr. John Bouchard, Scott Pelletier, Jake Robichaud, Carroll Theriault, Corey Pelletier, and Suzie Paradis, town manager. Credit: Jessica Potila | SJVT

FORT KENT, Maine — The Fort Kent Town Council has asked the Maine commissioner of education what the town would have to do to withdraw from SAD 27.

“Due to a number of concerns the council members have with the current activity within the school district and contractual obligations they have signed, the board would like to request information on the process to withdraw from a school district,” a letter dated Friday, Jan. 31, and sent to Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin said.

SAD 27, along with SAD 33 and Madawaska School District, have joined together to form the Valley Unified Regional Educational Center, which is attempting to build a regional grades seven-12 school in the St. John Valley.

“The council is also requesting the appropriate individual from your office to communicate with, that can better explain the process, the cost to taxpayers, cost to the town and the state school funding matrix after withdrawal,” the letter said.

Members of the Fort Kent Town Council at a regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 27, had asked town manager Suzie Paradis to obtain information about the school withdrawal process.

The Fort Kent Town Council expressed second thoughts about the regional school project as early as Dec. 9 when several members of the public addressed the council regarding their concerns about the school.

“We’re seeking information on withdrawal as a plan B,” said council member Corey Pelletier on Wednesday. “If this [regional school] process continues without the support of the council and the SAD 27 board, we’ll seek alternative action.”

Members of the SAD 27 school board recently issued a written statement indicating its position on Valley Unified’s regionalization efforts:

“We continue to support the idea of partnering with the districts in the Valley Unified Regional Service Center and the construction of a new Regional High School,” the statement said. “We do not, however, support the site selection process and the subsequent results. The tools used in the site selection process were a poor fit to evaluate the needs of our region.”

“I’m absolutely not against our children getting the best education possible. I am against a school being located in Frenchville. Studies have shown that when a town loses a school, there is economic downfall that follows,” Pelletier said. “I also can’t imagine explaining to a young family seeking to relocate to Fort Kent that we don’t have a high school in our community. We have an elementary school, high school and university all on Pleasant Street. That is unique to Fort Kent and a massive appeal to outside families looking to move to the area.”

The state has not yet responded to the council’s letter.

Hundreds of voters turned out to cast their secret ballots Tuesday in straw polls held in Madawaska and Frenchville to gauge public interest in building a new St. John Valley regional high school at a site in Frenchville.

Fort Kent’s nonbinding straw poll vote on the issue will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and all ballots from the three school districts will be sealed until counted Thursday. The results will be announced that evening.