Decision on middle school not imminent

BAR HARBOR — Lilea Simis of Bar Harbor, a member of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) board, is frustrated that, despite repeated assurances to the contrary, some people still believe a decision has been made to build an island-wide middle school.

It hasn’t. And even if the school board thinks it’s a great idea, the decision would ultimately be up to voters in the towns that the school system serves.

“There are so many rumors flying around about this,” Simis said at the MDIRSS board meeting Monday night.

Noting that some people don’t actually read stories in the newspaper that explain what is going on with the middle school deliberations, Simis said,

“People sometimes only read the headlines and then just make assumptions that this is going to happen or that is going to happen. I feel it’s like a big snowball going down a steep hill and getting bigger and bigger, and it’s really frustrating.”

Here is where things stand: The MDIRSS board wants to know whether voters in the towns the school system serves support the concept of creating a new, separate school for middle school students.

Next month, board members plan to present the basic concept to the Bar Harbor Town Council and the boards of selectmen in the other MDIRSS towns and ask them to place the question on the warrant for their town meetings next spring.

“It’s really important to ask that question before people put in a ton more work,” Superintendent Marc Gousse said. “It’s important to gauge where communities are [on this question].”

A “yes” vote at the town meetings next spring would not authorize the creation of middle school.

Rather, it would give school officials encouragement to develop a full-blown, detailed proposal that voters would be asked consider at some later date.

“It’s not the school board that’s choosing this; the board just wants to facilitate the conversation,” Tremont School Committee Chair Heidi Lawson said at a committee workshop on the issue last week. “Ultimately it comes down to the communities. That’s what people need to understand.”

If the town boards agree to ask voters if they support the general concept of a middle school, then school committee members from each town would hold public forums on the idea starting in January.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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