The Maine Department of Education has given conditional approval to a plan that would allow Freeport to withdraw from the school district it shares with Pownal and Durham.
Paula Gravelle, school finance director for the education department, confirmed Friday that the state approved the withdrawal plan. She said Freeport officials filed a plan that dealt with finances, property, education standards and other details about how the district would be unraveled.
The board of the district, Regional School Unit 5, approved Freeport’s withdrawal last month.
Freeport is the largest town in the school unit and residents began discussing withdrawal after a $17 million renovation plan for Freeport High School was rejected by voters last year. A majority of Freeport voters approved the renovation plan, but enough voted against it in Pownal and Durham to defeat the measure.
The move for Freeport to withdraw from the district began soon after and gained steam over the winter.
The district was formed in 2009 under a statewide school consolidation law. The law allowed towns to withdraw from districts, but set out a lengthy process for doing so. The next step in Freeport’s case will be a district public hearing, tentatively scheduled for later this month, and a November vote by Freeport residents.
If the withdrawal referendum is approved, Freeport will have to then set up its own school board and adopt a budget before next July.
Under the withdrawal plan, Freeport would become a separate district July 1, 2015, but Durham and Pownal students would continue to attend Freeport schools in the 2015-16 school year under a tuition contract. Those students would also be allowed to stay in Freeport schools until they graduate from high school.
After 2015-16, Freeport would continue to accept Pownal and Durham students in its high school up to its maximum capacity of 500 students. The school was slightly over capacity during the last school year, with 326 students from Freeport, 131 from Durham and 58 from Pownal.
The plan also calls for Durham and Pownal students to be guaranteed admission at Brunswick High School. The Brunswick School Board is scheduled to vote on that part of the proposal next week.
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: