RSU 1 board weighs $15K for outdoor learning program

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

BATH — At a budget forum Monday that ran less than an hour, the Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors discussed restoring $15,000 for a canoe and camping education program.

RSU 1’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget could increase 2.3 percent in fiscal 2015, while the amount to come from taxes could rise 3.2 percent.

Spending could reach $28.4 million, with $18.8 million from taxpayers, according to information presented by the district. RSU 1 could receive $8.9 million in state subsidy, an increase of approximately $53,000.

The local contribution for each of the RSU’s five communities would be $9.2 million from Bath, up 2.9 percent; Arrowsic, nearly $436,000, down 8.1 percent; Phippsburg, $2.8 million, up 5.5 percent; West Bath, $2.7 million, up 2.3 percent, and Woolwich, $3.7 million, up 4.5 percent.

RSU 1 residents will vote twice on next year’s budget: at a Town Meeting-style gathering May 27, and a budget validation referendum June 10.

Lawrence Kovacs, a gifted and talented program teacher for RSU 1, answered board questions about Fundamental Learning On Water, or FLOW, an outdoor learning initiative. FLOW would be offered to all eighth-graders this fall. The curriculum includes five-day saltwater canoe and camping trips along islands in Hockamock and Montsweag bays.

Different groups would go at different times, and the islands are all within a third of a mile from the mainland, Kovacs said.

RSU 1 would collaborate with the Wiscasset-based Chewonki Foundation, which will subsidize a third of the tuition cost for the trip. Bath Savings Institution and First Federal Savings & Loan have committed to a combined $10,000 each year for the duration of the program, Kovacs said.

Participating students would contribute to the cost by paying $100 each.

“This is something that could really change a kid’s life, could have a huge impact … and also connect them with the rich surroundings that we have around us,” RSU 1 Board Chairman Tim Harkins said.

He noted that with the budget not being approved until June, students would have just the summer to raise money, while if the trip were in September 2015, they would have the whole school year to do so.

“The FLOW program is an attempt to get kids out in our unique geographical location,” Kovacs said Tuesday. “… My motivation really is to expose kids to the specialness of Midcoast Maine, and hopefully enlist them as stakeholders, as stewards, as … citizens who are proud of their place, and will love it and take care of it.”

The trip would have a focus on journaling, develop “a culture of grit and grappling,” and build a sense of place and foster relationships, according to Kovacs.

Teaching topics include canoeing basics, navigation, marine mammals, outdoor baking and living skills, bird identification and studies of a salt marsh and tide pool. The endeavor would provide students with real-world, contextual learning, and build a sense of school-wide community.

The School Board will have to vote at an upcoming meeting whether to restore the $15,000 expenditure.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.