Class dismissed: Voters close Stockton Springs Elementary School
Stockton Springs Elementary School is closing after voters in the two-town Regional School Unit 20 on April 11 approved shuttering the mostly unused building.
Residents in Searsport voted 65 in favor to 18 opposed and those in Stockton Springs voted 91 in favor to 28 opposed. Only one town's approval was needed to close the school.
Board members began discussing closing the school in 2016 but decided to wait an additional year as administrators hashed out a plan for relocating the pre-kindergarten program. With the school closed, those students will be moved into available classroom space in Searsport Elementary School. That relocation will not occur until the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, Tony Bagley, RSU 20 board chairman, said.
Following the vote, board members meet April 12 to verify the referendum's results, which are then submitted to the state. After that, board members will discuss what they wish to do with the building.
During a public hearing held a few weeks prior to Tuesday's referendum, where turnout was relatively sparse, one questions raised was whether the Maine Ocean School could use the building. Once closed, the district has several options it can pursue regarding how it chooses to dispose of the property, including selling it or leasing it. By law, the district can hold onto the building for a couple years, Bagley said, before a decision is made regarding how to dispose of it. The district will still be responsible for maintaining the building during that time.
Some board members have indicated that if the building is sold, it should be priced at fair market value. When RSU 20 closed Frankfort Elementary School they transferred it to the town for $1. The town later sold it to a developer who is converting it into an assisted living facility.
Board members also pointed out that prior to their vote earlier this year to close the school, no one from the Maine Ocean School, or any other entity, approached the district about possibly using the building. Some questions were also raised as to whether groups that use the building will need to find new space, but district officials offered reassurances that space would be made available in Searsport's schools.