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Freeport council seeks action on RSU 5 withdrawal

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Freeport council seeks action on RSU 5 withdrawal

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.