RSU 5 hears debate over who gets unused modular classroom in Durham

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FREEPORT — Durham school sports boosters and the town of Durham are in a tug-of-war over use of a former mobile classroom. 

With the new Durham Community School built and ready for students, the two-classroom modular unit once used for student overflow is no longer needed.

The dispute came to the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Trustees on Aug. 25, but was tabled until Sept. 22 meeting so that more information can be gathered.

Superintendent of Schools Shannon Welsh said the Durham School Committee held a meeting in May 2009 to discuss what to do with the modular unit after the new school was built. Although both the town and the boosters expressed interest, the School Committee thought the boosters were more closely related to the school and agreed to donate it to them for equipment storage and meeting space.

The RSU became the owner of the unit through school consolidation.

A majority of board members last week said they thought it should remain in Durham to benefit the residents who purchased it in the first place, but some thought it was a discussion for the town and the boosters.

Welsh said if the board could not see an educational use for the mobile classroom, legally it would be turned over to the town of Durham for a decision by selectmen. If the board could find an educational use, it would stay with the RSU.

“In trying to honor the Durham School Committee’s decision to keep it in Durham, it makes sense to leave it in Durham to benefit the immediate needs there,” Welsh said. “Whatever decision is made should be made at the Durham level, not the RSU level. Because of the potential legal conflict, (RSU 5 does) not need to be a part of it.”

But Troy True, president of the Athletic Club of Durham, and several RSU 5 board members argued there is a need for additional storage space in the school district.

True said the modular unit could be used to expand the boosters programming, and be used to house sports equipment and cooking equipment needed for  fundraising purposes. He said equipment is now kept in an AmVets storage facility and at residents’ homes.

Denise LaFlamme, chairwoman of the Durham Board of Selectmen, said the town could use the modular unit to house public records and to hold meetings.

Welsh said without having details on where the mobile unit would be placed, what additional costs could be associated with it, and more information from the Durham Board of Selectmen, the RSU 5 board could table the decision until its next meeting on Sept. 22. In addition, two of the three Durham representatives to the board were not present at last week’s meeting.

“There are competing demands that are very valid,” Welsh said. “This is not an easy decision.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or