BAR HARBOR — The new school year starts next Thursday, Aug. 31, for most of the more than 1,500 students in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System.
Freshmen at MDI High School will get a head start with a half-day of orientation Wednesday, Aug. 30, starting at 7:46 a.m.
On Thursday, the school day starts for all high school students at 7:57 a.m. Classes at the elementary schools start between 8:10 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. Following tradition, the school year at Trenton Elementary begins at 7:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast prepared by members of the Trenton Volunteer Fire Department.
Expected first-day enrollments range from three at Frenchboro Elementary to 535 at the high school.
It’s going to be a busy fall for school boards and administrators, Superintendent Marc Gousse told the Islander he plans to wrap up his community listening sessions in preparation for making recommendations for both improving education and achieving greater efficiencies across the system.
Residents of some communities have expressed concern that those recommendations will include closing one or more schools. But Gousse indicated that is unlikely.
“People really value their community-based schools, and they don’t want to see that change,” he said. “We need to find a blend of maximizing resources without taking away local control, local autonomy. I believe there is some low-hanging fruit that we can capture without compromising individual school or community identities.”
Gousse suggested that efficiencies, and thus cost savings, might be enhanced by consolidating such functions as food service, maintenance and transportation.
“We already do it in technology and somewhat in special education,” he said.
The schools’ collective bargaining agreement with teachers expires at the end of this school year.
Negotiations over new teacher contracts three years ago were quite contentious, and Gousse hopes to avoid a repeat of that.
“I’m going to recommend some new approaches that I think might bring us to a really positive place,” he said. “My goal would be that both sides work together through the fall to hopefully hammer out an acceptable agreement by the first of the year.
“I think it’s doable. Nobody wants to see a long, protracted discussion.”
Another area of focus this school year, Gousse said, will be the continuing implementation of proficiency-based education in all grades. He said the schools need to continue helping parents, students and even school staff understand that model “because it’s a newer, alternative way of delivering education.”