The mission of Regional School Unit 5 is to provide our students with a world-class education that will challenge minds, engage creativity, develop self-discipline, and advance inherent strengths. There are many steps being implemented to ensure the realization of this mission.

One of the biggest factors impacting education are the teachers in front of our students every day. We are extremely fortunate to have excellent teachers. However, it is also important to have first-class facilities. On Jan. 10, 2017, citizens of Durham, Freeport, and Pownal will vote on whether to fund the construction of an eight-lane track and artificial turf field in Freeport.

As part of the School Board’s goals this year, one of the strategic objectives is to create facilities that foster a safe, engaging environment. Our ongoing renovation of the high school, due to be completed by next September, is creating a quality facility that supports teaching and learning, helping each student to reach their academic potential. The existing Freeport Performing Arts Center provides our students with an exceptional facility in which to perform concerts and plays, such as the recent musical “Letters at Sea.”

If the referendum for the track and field passes, student athletes will finally have a first-rate facility in which to train, compete, and nurture their inherent athletic talents.

Currently, Freeport High School does not have a track. It is one of only three schools, out of 28 in Class B, where one does not exist. The track team is bused to Bowdoin College for practice, and RSU 5 does not have the ability to host meets. The track and field will benefit not only the track team, but other athletic groups as well. It will extend practice times for many of our groups, making our teams more competitive. Equally as important, it will allow working parents to be present at more of the games, creating a greater sense of community, as seen this fall when temporary lights allowed for a boys and girls soccer game to be played in the evening.

The facility would also be available to other groups when not being used by the school, similar to the Freeport Performing Arts Center. This new track and field could create a positive public health impact for the larger RSU 5 community.

The estimated cost of the project is just over $4 million. The majority of this money ($2.3 million) has already been pledged to be donated. Many parents, community members, and businesses strongly support this project, as evidenced by their donations. The maximum amount of potential bond needing to be issued for the base project is slightly more than $1.18 million. This would cost the average homeowner $11-$14 annually, depending on whether you live in Durham, Freeport, or Pownal.

Please make your voice heard and go to the polls and vote on Jan. 10 (absentee ballots are available now). If the referendum passes, construction would begin in the spring, with a projected completion date of September 2017, scheduled to coincide with the completion of the high school renovation.

We are well on our way to providing every student in RSU 5 with a world-class education. This is just the latest step in our journey.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected]