Maine’s 1st regional high school faces major hurdle before it can secure millions in state funding
GUILFORD, Maine — Local districts involved in Maine’s third regional high school attempt will need to cover the costs of an engineering study and other planning efforts before they can secure millions of dollars in state funding to build the project.
Superintendents met with the Maine Department of Education in early May to inquire about pre-construction funding and were told the state would not help pay for it, which was disappointing, the superintendent said. of SAD 4, Kelly MacFadyen.
“Our next step will be to ask for proposals from engineering firms to find out what it would cost,” MacFadyen said at a school board meeting on Wednesday. “It’s going to make a big difference as to whether we can fund it through our local budgets or go to our partners.”
The cost to local districts is an early hurdle in a complicated project that aims to shore up neighboring schools with declining enrollment, an effort that has failed twice before in the St. John’s Valley and Houlton in Aroostook County. . The cost of the new project is not yet clear, but the state has offered $100 million for the St. John Valley proposal and $120 million for the Houlton one.
But there are still years to go and there is a lot of work to do. District leaders have agreed to a community school district as the state-approved governance structure. A technical study, site selection and other related works will take place in the coming months.
The timing isn’t ideal as voters just passed the districts’ 2022-2023 school year budgets, but companies such as Cianbro Corporation and Guilford-based Hardwood Products Co. have backed the project in the planning phase, MacFadyen said. Area businesses could offer apprenticeships, internships and other opportunities for students, and they’ll likely want to employ some after they graduate, she said.
The modern regional facility involves School Administrative District 4 in Guilford, SAD 41 in Milo, and SAD 46 in Dexter. Corinth Regional School Unit 64 has also been involved in meetings and discussions, but the district has not engaged in the application process, Superintendent Rhonda Sperrey said.
The regional high school would be integrated into a vocational and technical school with the University of Maine system and the Maine Community College system, according to a description on the DOE website. It would also support industry training programs.
It will be difficult to choose a site for the school that appeals to the 30 cities involved and meets state requirements for construction projects, said Niki Fortier, chair of the school board. Districts will need to consider the time students spend on buses to and from school, MacFadyen said.
If voters approve the plan in a referendum — which is more likely to take place next spring — affected districts can access the state’s $100 million.