The Regional School Unit 3 Policy Committee has proposed changes to its facilities use policy that will allow some outside groups to hold fundraising events at district schools.

Non-school-affiliated groups have been using the Mount View High School cafeteria, gym and other district facilities to raise funds for such causes as community members’ medical bills or sports clubs in which many RSU 3 students participate, but when the student fundraising policy came up for review, community use of the facilities for fundraising came into question.

The current policy, written in 1986, is outdated, Superintendent Paul Austin said, because new facilities have since been built with federal funds, which carry requirements for how the facilities are used.

Austin said he consulted the district’s lawyer, with Drummond Woodsum of Portland, about the fundraising policy, and was advised that for tax-related, constitutional and liability reasons, no outside groups should be allowed to raise funds at district facilities.

Because of constitutional protections against discrimination, the lawyer told Austin, if the district allows one outside group use of the facilities for a fundraiser, it would then be obliged to allow any outside group to do so, even if it deemed the group or fundraising cause to be inappropriate.

A new, draft policy based on Maine School Management Association's sample student fundraising policy was given a first reading at the Board of Directors' meeting Feb. 27. It limits the causes for which students can raise funds to school-affiliated programs, organizations registered as nonprofit with the IRS, and student organizations.

At the April 10 board meeting, several members of the public spoke against the proposed policy changes because, as one said, non-school-affiliated groups “do phenomenal things for the schools,” and depend on fundraising events they hold at district facilities.

Austin clarified that the student fundraising policy covers student fundraising only and that outside groups' right to raise funds at the schools would be covered in the facilities use policy, which lists categories of users by priority: first, RSU 3 school programs and organizations; second, municipal organizations within RSU 3; third, nonprofit organizations located within RSU 3; fourth, nonprofit organizations; and fifth, “all other individuals and organizations."

The Policy Committee met May 9 and June 13, with several members of the public attending. The student fundraising policy was reviewed and no changes were proposed. Regarding facilities use by outside groups, committee members suggested the superintendent generate a list of community organizations that would be considered affiliated with the school, and that new organizations and individuals could apply to be added to that list.

Board member Lisa Cooley, though not a Policy Committee member, was in attendance May 9, and said the meeting was productive and the community was reassured.

"We realized that this is a community that likes to raise funds for one another, and we’re totally OK with that," she said."I think everyone left (the meeting) with a secure sense that no one would be stopped from doing what they need to do."

Regarding the student fundraising policy, she said students often have to raise funds to attend non-school-affiliated programs or events. For example, a few students won awards in the state Skills USA competition and had to raise the money to travel to Kentucky to represent Maine in the national competition.

"We want kids to be able to do that kind of thing," she said.

At the June 13 meeting, the committee worked on defining "school-affiliated group." It will continue working on the facilities use and student fundraising policies at its next meeting.

“The whole matter is still being worked out, to make sure the district is covered in terms of possible legal repercussions which would come out of outside groups using the facilities to fund-raise,” said Richard Frost, an RSU 3 director who serves as chairman of the Policy Committee. “I think there is every interest to work with community groups that have a longstanding relationship with the district, as well as new ones that would be appropriate.”

Board and policy committee member Rachel Katz said June 20 that the compromise is “an attempt to work with the community to have the district buildings be community spaces," adding that the board "wants to do the necessary hard work to make it work for everybody.”

Austin said the policies will be discussed again at the next Policy Committee meeting. A date has not yet been set for that meeting.