FREEPORT — Freeport’s move to withdraw from Regional School Unit 5 met little opposition Tuesday night, with only one resident from Pownal or Durham speaking at a public hearing on the issue and most Freeport residents voicing support for the proposal.
Durham resident Kevin Nadeau said parents of school-aged children in his town were surveyed about whether they’d like to see Freeport withdraw from the district, and according to him 70 percent said no. Nadeau, however, was the only person who wasn’t from Freeport to speak at the hearing, meant for residents of the three-town district.
About 40 people attended the hearing at the Freeport Community Center. There will be another hearing, which hasn’t been scheduled yet, for Freeport residents before they vote Nov. 4 on whether to withdraw.
Most people who spoke Tuesday said they were pleased with the agreement, in which Freeport would become a standalone district as of July 1 and would limit the number of Durham and Pownal students who could attend Freeport High School.
Starting in the 2016-17 school year, new Durham and Pownal students would only be admitted up to the school’s capacity of 500 students, though they’d be guaranteed acceptance at Brunswick High School.
Last year, 515 students attended Freeport High, with 326 from Freeport, 131 from Durham and 58 from Pownal.
Students from Pownal, where there is no middle school, would be allowed to attend Freeport Middle School.
“I see this as a big reset button,” said Joe Migliaccio of Freeport.
He said the agreement allows the three towns start over, returning to where they were before consolidating in 2009 to find a better way to work together.
“We’ve got wounds we all need to mend and celebrations and stories we all want to tell,” he said. “Pownal, Durham are always going to be part of out town, our schools.”
Going back, however, is not something Chris Parker of Freeport sees as a good thing. He doesn’t believe the town should withdraw.
“When you lose population, you lose teachers, and when you lose teachers, you lose classes,” he said. “A lot of kids lose a lot of choices.”
Parker also thinks the high school needs the $14.6 million renovation approved by voters in the three towns last November. That won’t happen if Freeport withdraws.
“It’s going to leave us with a high school jam-packed,” he said.
Rod Regier of Freeport had the opposite concern – that not enough students from Durham and Pownal will choose Freeport High School, if Freeport withdraws and they get to choose the school they attend.
Freeport has sent a message to Durham and Pownal that the town “wants their money, but not their opinion,” he said.
If their enrollment drops, Freeport’s costs go up, Regier said.
In the survey of Durham parents, Nadeau said more listed Freeport as their first choice high school than any other school.
“I think this agreement is a good agreement,” Eric Bryant of Freeport said.
He and others lauded the work of the committee that came up with the plan, which they said was a fair compromise.
The agreement will need final approval from the state before going to voters in November.