News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 3, 2018
Superintendent responds to school closure rumors

by Monique Labbe

Union 76 Superintendent Chris Elkington recently sent out a letter to parents and guardians of Deer Isle-Stonington High School students amidst rumors circulating the island regarding the future of the school.

The primary focus of Elkington’s letter was to ensure the public that, at least for the time being, a decision has not been made to close the school. In the letter, Elkington noted that when it does come time to make that decision, it will be made by the community.

Rumors have been circulating over the past several months; however, with the recent advertisement for a new Transitional Leader instead of principal, as well as a 2018-19 maintenance budget that does not give much to repair or work on the high school building, the rumors of school closure have escalated.

“It is discouraging to me that this fear would reignite when the [CSD 13] board and I have put in a large amount of time and effort into sharing information and putting in a transparent process and timeline for this important decision to be investigated and brought back to the board and then to the voters in Deer Isle and Stonington,” wrote Elkington in the letter.

Instead of advertising for a replacement principal at the high school, board members and Elkington have instead opted to search for a Transitional Leader, to take over the principal duties at the school for the next school year.

“I can’t with a good conscience ask people to apply if they don’t know that there is a very real possibility that the school could become either a K-12 School or that the high school could close with our sending students off island for high school,” said Elkington.

The CSD board gave Elkington authority to hire a strategic planning consultant in the fall of 2016, who has been assisting the district in coming up with different solutions and options for the future of the high school and district. One of those options is to create a kindergarten to grade 12 school at the current elementary school.

An ad hoc committee to study school structure is being formed. That committee will address and develop options to put before the community in March of 2019 for a vote during the regular elections in Deer Isle and Stonington. Elkington noted that the committee still needs parent volunteers.

Elkington and board members have been urging the community to be involved in the process since the beginning, holding regular informational sessions to be as transparent as possible with the newest information.

“Multiple efforts have been used to ask for citizens to participate, and although turnouts for meetings have not been overwhelming, we feel fortunate to have had everyone who has participated add their voice,” said Elkington.

Elkington added that he is aware these kinds of discussions about school closure can and will be difficult for the community, but that does not mean those discussions should end.

“We must look at our realities on the ground in order to plan for our next steps,” he said. “In order to think long-term we must look at what our enrollment and demographic data says today, and what it possibly looks like in the future, in order to plan long-term for the best academic and social-emotional options for our students moving forward.”

Additionally, Elkington said that both he and CSD 13 board chairman Jane Osborne are available should anyone in the community have questions or would like to give their input regarding the district’s future.

“Sadly, not a single question has been asked directly by those who would spread this false assumption, when all they would need to do is either call my office and speak with me, contact [Osborne] or come to a board meeting and ask questions directly,” said Elkington.