April 01, 2020

Bucksport plans straw vote on school proposal

BUCKSPORT – The public will have a chance to participate in a straw vote Thursday designed to measure response to a proposed site for a new middle school.

The Bucksport School Committee has set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at the superintendent’s office on Elm Street to discuss the proposal.

The meeting will include a straw vote on the planned site of the school.

Last year, the state Department of Education ranked Bucksport’s middle school project as the sixth-neediest among 70 applications received seeking funding.

Since then, the local building committee has selected Jack Gordon as the primary architect on the project and has identified a site.

According to Marc Curtis, superintendent of schools, the site selection committee has recommended a 40-acre parcel across the power line and northeast of the Miles Lane School. The committee will meet with a subcommittee from the Education Department later this month, then with the state Board of Education in January to review the proposed site, Curtis said.

In the meantime, it will meet with state and federal agencies to make sure the site meets all requirements.

The straw vote is a part of the lengthy state approval process and will be used as a gauge of the local support for the project.

A formal local referendum vote will be held later in the process, Curtis said.

Sometime in March or April the committee will take preliminary plans for the proposed fifth- through eighth-grade middle school to the state Board of Education for concept approval, Curtis said. If the project receives that approval, the committee will develop more detailed plans to present to residents for the referendum, probably in early May. Those plans then would be presented to the state board for financial approval, the final step in the approval process.

The physical plans for the school are still being prepared, but Curtis said the new building is being planned as a facility that not only improves the physical environment and provides more space, but also “significantly” affects the pupils’ education.

“This project will allow for increased efficiency in carrying out programs as well as provide for a level of technology that will greatly enhance math, science, technology, communications and foreign language areas,” he said in prepared information about the project. “In addition, a new school will assist middle school students in meeting the goals outlined in Bucksport’s System Improvement Plan and Maine’s Learning Results.”

Curtis said the project also has the potential, with local financial support, to accommodate a cultural arts auditorium for both school and public performances and display.

The Walter H. Gardiner School is no longer suitable for use as a school, but Curtis said the building might meet other community needs. A town committee already has begun studying possible uses for that building once it is vacant.

The building committee plans to hold three or four public hearings during the process, Curtis said, and will hold straw votes at each.

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