Fate of Stockton Springs school remains in limbo

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jan 11, 2018
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Searsport — Members of the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors continue to consider options for the shuttered Stockton Springs Elementary School but have not come to any decisions regarding its future.

Directors on Jan. 9 requested Superintendent Chris Downing work with the district business manager and operations manager to determine potential future uses, and costs, of the school. Downing said a study under way by Siemens of all RSU 20 facilities will include Stockton Springs Elementary.

"Then, a commercial appraisal to see what the building is worth," Downing said Jan. 10. "... Before any decisions are made, they want some numbers to come in."

The building still belongs to RSU 20, he said, but remains unused. It costs the district about $50,000 per year to maintain it, including heat, electricity, alarm systems and snow removal, Downing said. The last payment on the structure was made in July 2017.

"There's no debt any more on that building," Downing said.

Board members began discussing closure in 2016 and voted in January 2017 to close the school and relocate programs still operating in the building. Residents in Searsport and Stockton Springs also voted, in April 2017, to officially close the school, a step required by law.

The district has several options it can pursue regarding how it chooses to dispose of the property, including selling it or leasing it, under state Title 20A, section 4103. By law, the district can hold onto the building for a couple years, RSU 20 Board of Directors Chairman Tony Bagley previously said, before a decision is made regarding how to dispose of it.

In early December 2017, Stockton Springs selectmen expressed an interest in town ownership of the school. Town Manager Courtney O'Donnell said Dec. 7 a town vote is required to accept ownership of the school and any funding required to purchase it.

"If we are interested in taking over that building, I need to start attending those meetings to find out what's really going on," she said.

Selectman Betsy Bradley said it is her understanding Maine Ocean School has no interest in the facility.

"I, for one, will express my interest in not losing that building," she said.

There has been much speculation — public and private — about the new magnet school moving into the former elementary school but Maine Ocean School officials have not addressed the matter publicly. RSU 20 board members have previously said no representatives of the school have reached out regarding purchase, lease or use of Stockton Springs Elementary.

Selectman Peter Curley brought up Frankfort Elementary School, which was sold to that town for $1 by RSU 20 and has now been converted by its new owner to an assisted living facility. The new owner purchased the former school for around $200,000, according to published reports.

"If they give it to the town for $1, that's one thing — it depends on how it unfolds," O'Donnell said.

"I don't think it's a select board issue," Curley said. "People need to go to school board meetings."

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Stephanie Grinnell
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.

Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.

Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.

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