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Collaborative grant could set stage for regional high school

ST. JOHN VALLEY, Maine — Three school districts in the St. John valley collaborated on  a grant that seeks to tap into a $3 million competitive funding program announced last month by Maine’s Department of Education.

The proposal, “Rightsizing Education in the Upper St. John Valley,” is an effort between Maine School SAdmisntrarive Districts 27 and 33 and the Madawaska School Department and seeks $500,000 in grant monies to create the framework for centralized operations and explore options for future collaboration.

The DOE requires that applicants demonstrate efforts between districts to collaborate and reduce costs. The proposal from the three Valley districts estimates a cost savings of more than $900,000 over a five-year period.

This grant would pay for a consultant, a study of existing facilities at the three districts and a review of local school policies. The grant would also include a collaborative arts program, curriculum coordination and an assessment of central office operations. 

If approved, it would also set the stage for a potential regional school construction project, if that is what the residents of the area want. Some have been suggesting a regional high school as a way to address shrinking student populations and administrative overhead that, to some, now outweighs enrollments.

The DOE is also developing an application for regional schools construction projects. The process will support multiple districts working together to program and provide space for students.

“If we apply for that second grant, we’ve already figured out a lot of what would go into it,” Madawaska Superintendent Gisele Dionne said.

The work on the efficiency grant and its focus on collaboration was done outside of the ongoing Tri District Strategic Planning Steering Committee, which has been meeting since September. That group also includes the same three Valley school departments.

The state has not yet announced which efficiency grant applications, which were due Feb. 23, have been approved.

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