Freeport council seeks action on RSU 5 withdrawal

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FREEPORT — Town councilors Tuesday urged the Regional School Unit 5 board to finalize some terms of the town’s possible withdrawal from the school district.

The council voted unanimously to ask the board to clarify issues surrounding the 10-year school of guaranteed acceptance that must be promised to Durham and Pownal students who would be leaving RSU 5 if withdrawal is approved.

Councilors said they doubt a withdrawal agreement can be approved if there isn’t a guaranteed school in place.

“At the end of the day, we have no clarity about that,” Councilor Rich DeGrandpre said.

Vice Chairwoman Kristina Egan agreed, and said something has to be done to clarify the issue.

“If we had something in writing we might better understand what’s required of us,” Egan said.

Councilors decided what is needed is a letter of clarification, or an adviser who can clarify the issue.

Resident Jack Matheson said he attended a meeting in Brunswick, where that town’s School Board expressed interest in accepting students from Durham and Pownal. But when he pressed Brunswick officials for more information, he said he was denied.

Matheson said he believes there is an agreement between Brunswick and the withdrawal working group, a committee representing Durham and Pownal.

“There is something on their desk, if you will, and I’d like to see that,” Matheson said.

Freeport has offered to grandfather the Durham and Pownal students. Students in sixth grade and up from Durham and in fourth grade and up from Pownal would be guaranteed to graduate from Freeport High School.

Kate Warner, a member of the Freeport withdrawal committee, said Freeport would like to grandfather these students because it would be best for the students.

“We said this is the right thing to do for the kids and we want to do it,” Warner said.

Warner went on to describe grandfathering as a “use it or lose it” situation. Students who take a year off from Freeport to see if they prefer a different school would not be guaranteed re-admission in Freeport. Students who chose to be grandfathered from the start, would be guaranteed the ability to graduate from Freeport High School.

Councilors stressed the importance of resolving the issues surrounding the withdrawal agreement before more time goes by.

“If this drags on past November, this becomes way more problematic,” Councilor Andy Wellen said.

Councilor Sarah Tracy agreed, and said the issue needs to be resolved because it’s “hurting the town.” She said it won’t be an easy process, but that there is a way to for progress to be made.

“It’s very important for us to resolve the things we can resolve and then chip away at the difficult things,” Tracy said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

FREEPORT— At Tuesday’s town council meeting, council members voted unanimously that issues surrounding Freeport’s withdrawal agreement from Regional School Unit 5 be clarified in order to move forward in resolving the matter.

The issues that were unclear to the council involved the ten-year school of guaranteed acceptance that must be promised to the Durham and Pownal students who would be disbanding from RSU5 if the withdrawal passes. Council members were unsure of whether or not the withdrawal agreement could be approved of there wasn’t a guaranteed school.

“At the end of the day, we have no clarity about that,” said Rich DeGrandpre, councilor at large.

Kristina Egan, vice chair of the council, agreed, and said something had to be done in order to make the issue clear to them and to members of the community.

“If we had something in writing we might better understand what’s required of us,” Egan said.

The council decided that it requires a letter of clarification or an advisor who can clarify the issue surrounding the guaranteed school of acceptance.

Jack Matheson, a resident of Freeport, addressed the council and shared information he came to understand after attending a meeting in Brunswick. Matheson said Brunswick had expressed interest in grandfathering the students from Durham and Pownal but that when he pressed for more information, he was denied.

Matheson told the council that he believes there is an agreement between Brunswick and the withdrawal working group, a committee representing Durham and Pownal.

“There is something on their desk, if you will, and I’d like to see that,” Matheson said.

As for grandfathering the Durham and Pownal students, Freeport has already offered to do so. Students in sixth grade and up from Durham and in fourth grade and up from Pownal would be guaranteed to graduate from Freeport High School if they were grandfathered.

Kate Warner, a member of the Freeport withdrawal committee, said Freeport would like to grandfather these students because it would be best for the students.

“We said this is the right thing to do for the kids and we want to do it,” Warner said.

Warner went on to describe grandfathering as a “use it or lose it” situation. If a student decides to take a year off from Freeport to see if they prefer a different school, it is not guaranteed that the student can later return to Freeport if they choose to. If a student chooses to be grandfathered from the start, the student is guaranteed to graduate from Freeport.

Council members stressed the importance of resolving the issues surrounding the withdrawal agreement before more time goes by.

“If this drags on past November, this becomes way more problematic,” said Andy Wellen, council district 4.

Sarah Tracy, council district 2, agreed, and said the issue needs to be resolved because it’s “hurting the town.” She said it won’t be an easy process, but that there is a way to for progress to be made.

“It’s very important for us to resolve the things we can resolve and then chip away at the difficult things,” Tracy said.

Tracy then echoed Wellen, saying that an agreement needs to be reached by the point when it’s time to vote in the fall.

“Whether you agree with the agreement or not, people have the right to go to the polls,” Tracy said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.