Those who still have questions, concerns and suggestions on the RSU 20 regional school reorganization proposal will have plenty of opportunities to sound off in the coming months.

RSU 20 Superintendent Bruce Mailloux announced dates and locations for eight more question-and-answer sessions regarding the proposed school reorganization concept at the RSU 20 school board meeting Tuesday night, July 26.

The eight forums are set to take place as follows:

• Wednesday, Sept. 7 in Frankfort

• Tuesday, Sept. 20 in Swanville

• Wednesday, Sept. 21 in Searsmont

• Thursday, Sept. 29 in Stockton Springs

• Tuesday, Oct. 4 in Belmont

• Wednesday, Oct. 5 in Morrill

• Tuesday, Oct. 18 in Belfast

• Thursday, Oct. 27 in Searsport

Mailloux said the meetings would likely take place at the schools that are located in each of the towns, with the exception of Belmont, where the forum would be held at the community building because there is no school. Exact locations and times for each meeting will be published as that information becomes available.

The reorganization concept, as proposed and previously presented, involves the following potential changes:

• The Searsport District High School and Searsport District Middle School complex would become the single RSU 20 middle school, housing all students in grades 6-8;

• BAHS would become the single RSU 20 high school, with BCOPE (Belfast Community Outreach Program in Education) continuing to serve the district as the alternative high school;

• THMS would become a K-5 elementary school, housing students from Ames (Searsmont), Weymouth (Morrill), Nickerson (Swanville) and East Belfast elementary schools. Ames, Weymouth and Nickerson schools would be closed. THMS, which can hold up to 450 students, would then serve 435 students;

• East Belfast School would become a preschool, housing the pre-K programs from Searsmont and Swanville (in addition to one already in place in East Belfast) and two more classes that are currently housed at the United Methodist Church on Mill Lane in Belfast;

• Frankfort Elementary School students would move to Searsport Elementary School and FES would be closed, and;

• Stockton Springs Elementary School and Drinkwater School in Northport would remain open, as school officials have indicated there is not enough space to move those students into other schools.

As school board chairwoman Jean Dube called for adjustments to the agenda at the start of Tuesday’s meeting, which took place at Searsport District High School, board member Joyce Chamberlin asked that an update on the reorganization concept be included in the evening’s agenda.

When the time came to discuss the matter, Mailloux told the board that the first two reorganization forums, which were held in Belfast and Searsport at the end of June, were both well attended — better attended, according to Mailloux, than all of the public forums regarding consolidation that were held in the former SAD 34 and 56 towns a few years ago.

“There was some good discussion and good questions at both locations,” said Mailloux of the June reorganization forums.

Mailloux said at both forums, members of the district’s teaching staff offered comments suggesting skepticism about the concept, with many noting that such a radical change would be difficult to implement due to the difference in curriculums at the two high schools. There was also concern among high school teachers in particular that Belfast Area High School would experience some crowding problems.

Mailloux acknowledged that while the state has given the RSU the green light to move students from SDHS to BAHS because there is sufficient classroom space to house the additional students, common areas such as the lobby, cafeteria and libraries at BAHS might be a tight squeeze.

“We are pushing the limits of capacity there,” said Mailloux.

Other teachers, as well as some parents, expressed concern about losing the smaller elementary schools, Mailloux said.

Members of the public have continued to share their thoughts on the reorganization proposal with Mailloux, he said, whether it’s during his regular working hours or during his own attendance at community events like the recent Celtic Celebration, or during his routine trips to the local grocery store.

The difference now, Mailloux said, is that people are approaching him with less emotion and more logic than when the concept was unveiled in the spring.

“The emotional component of the whole idea seems to be calming down,” said Mailloux of the people who have approached him to discuss the proposal in recent weeks. “… They might not be in favor of it, but they’re asking good, logical questions.”

In an attempt to keep the public informed of discussions at the reorganization forums, a “frequently asked questions” section on the concept has since been added to the RSU 20 website (rsu20.org).

At each of the two forums that have already taken place, Mailloux said he stressed the fact that reorganization is not a done deal.

“I made sure that people realized that this is a concept, an idea, an option,” said Mailloux.

A couple of board members asked Mailloux if the forums produced any alternative suggestions to the concept, or any ideas for increasing revenue.

Mailloux noted that Frankfort resident Seth Brown inquired about bringing in more students from other districts, or even foreign countries, as a way to increase the district’s cash flow. Mailloux said students coming from Hampden Academy, for example, can bring in a limited amount of dollars because the state sets the rate that the district can charge for tuition. Students coming in from a foreign country, like China, could potentially bring in more revenue because there is no limit to what the district can charge for tuition.

Mailloux said while foreign students could bring the district somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 per year, there is also an expense associated with housing and other basic needs for the students throughout the school year. Even given that reality, Mailloux said, the district could benefit financially from such arrangements.

“George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill has been doing it for years,” said Mailloux.

Board member Dorothy O’Dell said she had recently set up a small table outside the Belfast Co-op in an effort to reach out to the public and talk with people about the reorganization concept, and asked Mailloux if he would encourage other board members to take similar actions as a way to keep the conversations going between the public forums. Mailloux said “absolutely.”

Mailloux said in addition to bringing the forums to each of the district towns, Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum had approached him about addressing the City Council about the proposal in the near future. Mailloux said he has also made himself available to speak to community organizations such as the Belfast Rotary Club, for example, if those groups request a presentation on the concept.

“When it comes time to make a decision, I want people to have all the facts,” said Mailloux.

In other news, board members re-elected Dube as chairwoman for the sixth consecutive year, and also agreed to keep Deborah Riley in place as the vice chairwoman.