School planning

Politicians are faulted for “kicking the can down the road” on important policy decisions, especially ones having to do with budgets.

But once in awhile, delaying action on big budget questions is the right thing to do. Such is the case with the removal, for the moment, of a $6.4 million bond question from the warrant for Bar Harbor’s town meeting in June. The 20-year bond issue was proposed to fund projects at Conners Emerson: new roofs, boiler replacement, work on the water main and updates to the bathrooms.

A much more modest package is proposed for this year instead. Funding needed for immediate needs, which perhaps should include work on the water main so pipes don’t have to be flushed regularly, should be supported.

The delay buys school and town leaders time to weigh other options and gather more information, but the bigger questions are not going away.

The Conners building is 75 years old, Conners Emerson Principal Barb Neilly told the Town Council earlier this month. “Can you get another 10 years out of it? Sure. Can you get 20 years out of it? Probably. But at the end of that stage, the 20 years, you really have got to look at something different.”

There’s a good chance, as some councilors pointed out, that within that 20 years, the Mount Desert Island communities will be thinking differently about schools. The middle schools, and possibly others, may be consolidated.

School and town leaders are to be commended for balancing immediate and longer-term needs, opportunities and risks. Long-range planning conversations for the schools already are underway, and broad participation in that process will contribute to good outcomes everyone can live with.