Freeport narrowly votes to stay in Regional School Unit 5

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FREEPORT — The town voted 2,228 to 2,152 Tuesday to stay in Regional School Unit 5.

The 76-vote margin means Freeport will continue the school district consolidation with Durham and Pownal that took effect in 2009.

A group called Moving Freeport Forward filed a withdrawal petition in October 2013. Freeport voted 953-768 last December to start the withdrawal process.

The Freeport Withdrawal Committee was formed in January to write the withdrawal agreement. The committee and the RSU 5 Board of Directors each unanimously approved the agreement at the end of July. It was then sent to the Maine Department of Education and accepted.

Withdrawal proponents said they were not disheartened by the narrow loss.

“Over (the past year), one thing has become clear: that Freeport citizens on both sides of this debate care deeply about education and our town,” RSU 5 Board of Directors member and FWC Chairman Pete Murray said in an email. “While the vote today settled the governance issue, the close margin between the sides points to the need for continued engagement.”

Murray said the RSU 5 board will use what it’s learned over the past year to make the district stronger.

“Every voter wanted what was best for students and our town, and now the RSU board has the opportunity to continue building on this engagement and ensure that RSU 5 moves ahead to create schools where teachers want to be and where all students can thrive,” he said.

Michelle Ritcheson, a member of the RSU 5 Board of Directors and of the RSU 5 Working Group, said the district now has some work to do.

“I think we have our work cut out for us healing the communities,” she said.

Ritcheson said the next big step is finding a new superintendent.

She also said keeping the RSU together will be better financially and educationally.

“From the beginning, I thought we were a better district together,” Ritcheson 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.