Nearly 50 supporters and directors of the new Maine Ocean School and its foundation dined at the Samoset Resort in Rockport Aug. 10 and raised an estimated $31,000 toward the school's opening in September.

The new funds still fall short of the amount needed for the school’s first year, said Michael Flanagan of Thomaston, a member of the school’s Board of Trustees.

“It’s more than we started out with at the beginning of the evening,” Flanagan said, “but we need another $20,000.”

Professional fundraiser Ruth Lind started bidding during dinner with an appeal for $50,000 as her goal for the evening.

Sashi N. Kumar, Ph.D., national coordinator for maritime education and training for the U.S. Department of Transportation, outlined in his keynote speech the history of commercial shipping, the increasing size of cargo ships, and the need for new qualified mariners in the workforce because current mariners are aging.

“The average age of mariners is 57,” Kumar said, noting that women constitute only 7 percent of the marine workforce.

Maine Ocean School is a public magnet high school in Searsport for marine science, technology, transportation and engineering that provides a “hands-on, minds-on” education on the water, in the lab and in the classroom, according to the school’s literature.

It is the second public magnet school in Maine, following the founding of the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone in 1995.

The state told school officials that they had to have an enrollment of eight to open the doors. So far, six students have committed to the school, and another four have expressed interest that they plan to enroll, according to James Gillway, chairman of the foundation, the nonprofit entity for the Ocean School.

“We also had to raise the $50,000, and I think we’ve done that," Gillway said. "Many people took forms home with them (after the dinner) to make contributions,” he said. “The way it stands now, it looks as if our doors will open.”

The Ocean School is a partnership with Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Students from Maine will attend the school free of tuition charges. The Board of Trustees has said it is dedicated to making the cost of room and board affordable for all students.

Penobscot Marine Museum is giving the school space for administration, and Wayne and Lorraine Hamilton have donated a house for classes, which the Ocean School will share with the boat building class offered by Searsport District High School, Gillway said.

The state of Maine will provide an allotment of $10,000 per student, according to Capt. Eric Jergenson, chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees. So far the school expects to open Sept. 4 with eight students, although that enrollment will not be certain until Aug. 20, he said.

Charlie Spinney, a high school junior and son of Tara and Byron Spinney of Kennebunk, will be the school’s first boarding student. Charlie attended the event Friday.

“I am very excited,” he said of his enrollment.