News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 31, 2019
Voters overwhelmingly support keeping high school open
Nearly 94 percent favor two schools

Future of our schools vote results

In a two-town vote on January 29, 971 people cast ballots to keep the high school open while 65 said closing it was the better option.

by Faith DeAmbrose

Voters in Deer Isle and Stonington have spoken rather clearly about what they want to do with the future of education on the island.

In a two-town vote on January 29, 971 people cast ballots to keep the high school open while 65 said closing it was the better option.

“That is quite the show of support for the school,” said school board chairman Jane Osborne, after the non-binding votes were tallied. “We never took a position,” she said of the committee known as the Future of Our Schools Committee, which worked for hundreds of hours and held dozens of public meetings seeking to educate residents about the available options. “Our goal was to put the information in front of the public and to let them decide,” she said, adding that “my only hope was that whatever the result was, it would be clear.”

And it was, with nearly 94 percent of voters supporting the measure.

A second article aimed at either keeping two buildings for high school and elementary education or moving high school students to the elementary school while keeping portions of the high school open also was decisive.

Deer Isle had 517 voters and Stonington had 267 voters in favor of separate schools, which solidly beat out a second option to move students to the elementary school with 154 supporting that option in Deer Isle and 77 in Stonington.

“It’s fantastic to see so much support for the future of our education system on the Island. The decisions we make moving forward will impact not just the future of our schools, but also the future of our community and the people who live here. As a parent of young children, I’m relieved we will continue to support having a robust education system and families like mine won’t be faced with the decision of whether or not to leave the Island,” said state Representative Genevieve McDonald, who had twin girls just months before being sworn into office. McDonald echoed many of the same sentiments of Island parents who commented on social media after the results were released.

As for the next steps, explained school board chairman Osborne, the school board will look to update a 2015 report outlining the costs associated with building repairs and work to present a plan for voters in the future. The next vote, she said, will be a binding vote to fund the needed school repairs, adding that that vote is likely “a ways away.” In the meantime, she said, the school board plans to continue working on partnerships and programs outlined in the Future of Our Schools Committee report to grow educational opportunities and “to do the best for our children.”