FRENCHBORO — After six months as an island resident, new teacher Mindi Vestal submitted her resignation and moved back to the mainland.
“We’re sad to see her go,” said Mount Desert Island Regional School System Superintendent Marc Gousse in a Tuesday conversation with the Islander. “We were all surprised when she left … Outside the complexity of a one-room schoolhouse, it’s a huge commitment.”
Vestal, an Arizona native, moved to Frenchboro on Long Island at the end of last summer. She had four students enrolled for the 2018-19 school year ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. According to an email sent to the Islander, Vestal’s resignation was effective before the February school vacation.
“Her resignation took us by surprise; it was of her choice,” said Frenchboro School Principal Jill Cohen. “Our enrollment was down to two students at the time of her resignation.”
Although there is a substitute teacher on the island, there are currently no students enrolled at the school. Once Vestal resigned, one family took their two students out of the school and are currently home schooling them, according to Gousse.
Prior to Vestal’s resignation, the family of the other two students had approached the school district to see about temporarily enrolling in Pemetic Elementary School. Because the family would be based in Bass Harbor throughout much of the winter due to work-related choices, they asked to enroll their two children in the Southwest Harbor school. This was agreed to as a temporary arrangement by the school district and these two students are expected to return to Frenchboro School before the end of this school year.
“We have no intention to close the school,” said Gousse. “We are actively seeking a full-time teacher.”
Both Gousse and Cohen said there have been applicants for the position, which was recently advertised for grades K – 8.
“We are hoping to find the right candidate,” said Cohen. “Working on an island provides some unique experiences for both the students as well as teachers.”
In 2010, the number of residents of Frenchboro was listed as 61, although Gousse believes it may be less than a third of that number for year-round residents.
Long Island, which is the island where Frenchboro is located, is just over eight miles from the Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal on Mount Desert Island. Ferry trips are only three days a week and often involve an overnight stay on the island or the mainland in order to accomplish any business.
Cohen travels to Frenchboro, weather permitting, on the first and third Wednesdays of the month when a ferry runs in the morning and returns in the same day later in the afternoon. Otherwise, she frequently uses technology to communicate with the teacher, school board members and students on the island.