FREEPORT — The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors has decided not to change the name of Freeport High School.
The board on Dec. 14 voted 9-2 against a change; members Kathryn Brown and Naomi Ledbetter were in favor of renaming the school.
The decision was based in part on results from a survey taken throughout the Freeport-Durham-Pownal district last month. The board had been considering a change to better reflect that students from Pownal and Durham also attend the high school.
According to Ginny McManus, assistant to the superintendent, this year the high school population includes 319 students from Freeport, 146 from Durham and 48 from Pownal.
According to Superintendent Becky Foley, more than 1,200 surveys were completed by parents, students, other community members and school staff. Respondents overwhelmingly said they don’t want to change Freeport High School’s name.
Foley said 72 percent of people were against a change, 15 percent were in favor, and the remaining 13 percent were undecided.
The survey also asked whether changing the name would improve unity in the district; 67 percent said it wouldn’t and 15 percent felt it would.
In the comments section of the survey, people said they were against a name change for a variety of reasons, but the main reason was the estimated $68,000 cost for signs and athletic uniforms.
Some RSU 5 board members said they wish the cost hadn’t been included in the survey so they could have known what people’s thoughts were apart from the financial factor.
“I think we would have gotten different answers if there wasn’t a price tag on it,” Beth Parker said.
Beyond cost, many respondents said Freeport High School is already a brand and there is pride in the name. Others said giving it a name that doesn’t mention the name of the town would make it hard to distinguish where the school is located.
Board members said it was helpful to have so many people share their opinions and perspectives.
“I’m glad we did this survey,” Brian Pike said. “It was important to get this information to put this behind us.”
The board on Dec. 14 discussed the possibility of doing a minor name change, such as Freeport Regional High School or Freeport Area High School. It was decided, however, that this go against the clear results of the survey.
“I think we either change the name or we don’t change the name, but adding a word is changing the name,” Valy Steverlynck said.
In November, Foley said the name change was first discussed when the RSU was formed in 2009, but no action was taken. She said it’s being discussed again because high school renovations will include a new sign.
A $14.6 million bond to renovate the high school was approved by voters in November 2013. The work is expected to be complete by fall 2017.
Foley said some board members thought it would be a good time to explore whether the name should be changed before money is spent on a sign that says Freeport High School.
Board members also discussed adding a tagline to the school sign and district letterhead saying, “Serving the communities of Freeport, Durham and Pownal,” but no decision was made.