Media Archive

Atkinson OKs amended deorganization plan

Article from Bangor Daily News, Thursday, February 12, 2004

By Diana Bowley
of the NEWS Staff

ATKINSON - Local residents on Wednesday stood firm in their desire to deorganize their small community.In a vote of 48 to 15 during a special town meeting, residents approved an amended deorganization plan that switches the designated school system from SAD 68 back to SAD 41 where Atkinson students are currently enrolled.

The deorganization plan was amended after a public hearing last month before the Legislature's State and Local Government Committee when the original plan was opposed by state officials, Milo and Brownville officials, and by David Walker, SAD 41 superintendent. Walker told the committee that his district would lose about $360,000 the first year in state subsidy and in assessment, if the 50 Atkinson students were pulled from the district. He also doubted that SAD 68 could support the additional students because of overcrowding.

Even though a majority of parents of school-age children in Atkinson had petitioned the state to designate SAD 68 under the original deorganization plan, town officials agreed to a compromise to avoid jeopardizing the right of residents to vote on deorganization.

Some parents now consider the issue moot because Maine law allows the director of state schools in unorganized territories to provide tuition to another approved school if a parent makes the request. The tuition paid by the state, however, must not exceed statutory limits. In addition, the transportation to a school outside of SAD 41 would be the responsibility of the parent.

Residents were told Wednesday that SAD 68 Superintendent John Dirnbauer disputed that the district is overcrowded. Loretta Nuite, an Atkinson resident and a SAD 68 employee, said Wednesday that Dirnbaurer wanted residents to know that there is room enough for their pupils in SAD 68 and the district does want them. Nuite said the superintendent also wanted her to convey that there would be options available for transportation.

Now that residents have approved the amended deorganization plan, an amended bill that will reflect that change in school systems will be presented by Rep. Jim Annis, R-Dover-Foxcroft, co-sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville. That amended bill will be addressed during a State and Local Government work session on Feb. 18 in Augusta. After that work session, the committee will recommend to the Legislature whether the amended bill should pass. If the Legislature later approves the bill, the matter will revert back to residents, who will conclude the process with a yes or no vote to deorganize during a referendum in November.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.