On Dec. 17, Freeport gets to vote on whether to begin the process of withdrawal from RSU 5 and return to a stand-alone school district. Our town is one of a growing number considering undoing the ill-conceived state school consolidation mandate and returning to local control.

Consolidation is increasingly looking like a bad deal for Freeport. It was force-fed to certain communities under threat of penalties that were never levied, promised savings that never materialized and applied data has proven to be wrong.

Despite that, our three communities have worked hard making the best of the situation, but there are fundamental flaws in the arrangement. The reality of merging three towns with very different histories of funding education is proving to be difficult to reconcile. Freeport is being forced to compromise its commitment to education and it is destined to get worse under the RSU model. The recently passed high school renovation bond will likely cause deeper cuts to annual budgets of all the schools and force more compromises as voters in the other communities continue to react against the increases they are seeing. In the meantime, Freeport schools are losing their identity. We have been left with the option of trying to force our vision for schools on our partners or continue to compromise to make it work. Neither is an acceptable option.

But we have one last opportunity to go back to local control and create the school system that we want and deserve. This begins with a vote to withdraw on Dec. 17. This vote, if successful, will begin the process of forming a committee to create a withdrawal agreement with the RSU for Freeport to create its own school district. During this process, residents will have the opportunity to learn the particular details of what a Freeport school district will look like, what it will cost and how it will operate. We will consider what the ideal size of our high school is and what renovations are appropriate. We will also have an opportunity to work with our RSU partners to find the right balance of collaboration to create a partnership that works for all of the communities. If Freeport residents do not like the agreement the committee comes up with, they will vote it down and we stay in the RSU.

This is likely our last opportunity to find a better way. Freeport is a unique community that was an attractive destination for families prior to consolidation. That momentum, along with our identity, seems to have been lost in the consolidation maelstrom as we compromise more and more trying to make the RSU work. We can get it back, we can provide a better alternative for all three communities, and get on the right path again. It starts with voting yes on Dec. 17.

Alan Tracy

Freepo


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