After closure scare, clear sailing for Maine Ocean School

Sunset clause would have closed school
By Fran Gonzalez | Sep 01, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Executive Director of Maine Ocean School Kylie Bragdon sits on the steps of the Duncan House at 5 Church St., Searsport, on the Penobscot Marine Museum campus Aug. 30.

Searsport — Kylie Bragdon had been on the job for only a few weeks as executive director at Maine Ocean School when she met with Maine's attorney general and discovered the school's future was in jeopardy.

The marine-oriented school, which opened in September 2018, is a type of specialized public school known as a magnet school (at present there are only two in Maine), funded by both private donations and state funds.

According to Bragdon, the original statute establishing the school contained a "sunset clause" — a termination date that would force the school to close by Sept. 19 of this year.

"There are moments in life you don't expect," she said, adding this was one of them.

The school knew about this provision, she said, but did not think any action was needed because there were enough students to open the school last year.

To be granted an extension that will allow the school to remain open beyond September, Bragdon said, school officials collaborated with local legislators, including Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Waldo County.

According to a press release from Herbig's office, the Maine Legislature passed a bill  during its special session Aug. 26 to rectify the situation. Passed unanimously in both the Senate and House of Representatives, LD 1849 still must be signed by Gov. Janet Mills — which is probable, considering she requested it be addressed during the emergency session.

"The bill gives us an extension until the Legislature is back in session in January," Bragdon said.

Bradgon said school officials were able to contact all state senators either by phone or email and received the two-thirds vote needed to pass.

"It was certainly a team effort," she said.

Bragdon expressed her thanks for Herbig's efforts, as well as those of state Reps. Scott Cuddy, D-Winterport; Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington; and Victoria Kornfield, D-Bangor.

Searsport Town Manager and Maine Ocean School Board Chairman James Gillway said it was encouraging to see the level of support for the school at the special session. The former state representative sponsored the initial legislation to create Maine Ocean School.

"The peril of the school closing was upon us," he said. "It was critical to get out there on Monday."

In the future, Gillway said, new legislation will be needed to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

Maine Ocean School had 12 students enrolled in the hands-on education program last year. Bragdon said this year there are 11 students so far, but staff members are expecting as many as 16 to 20. The school is still accepting applications for this year. Visit maineoceanschool.org for more information.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Fran Gonzalez | Sep 03, 2019 09:25

Thank you for catching this. I have fixed and updated the story.



Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 02, 2019 15:43

Hey, it's a common "misteak", give her a break!



Posted by: Cheryl Ashey | Sep 02, 2019 10:19

They are "excepting" applications?



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