School Board Hopes to Inspire Support for School Reconstruction

Red Squirrel Surprises and Fuse Box Woes Contribute to Problem

Carrie Jones

BAR HARBOR—The Bar Harbor School Committee met on Monday afternoon in the art room in the lower building because the library was still having issues with squirrel biologicals.

“I feel like this is our most authentic room,” School Principal Heather Webster said, smiling.

The art room was once a part of the gym. Claymation prep with green screens behind them sit on folding tables. Paint dots the lacquered wooden floors.

The library where the board normally meets is still not open but should be at the end of this week or the beginning of next week, Webster said. The reading nook in the library is where the most separation of the wall from the foundation occurred. This caused water infiltration and also squirrel infiltration.

“Some red squirrels left some surprises behind,” Webster said.

One recent morning, one of the school buildings, which is plagued with structural issues, had no heat.

“This time it was the fuse box,” Webster said.

In the past year, it was an ancient boiler that’s been the problem. That boiler has recently been repaired and the school is hoping the cost of the over $130,000 repair will be reimbursed by insurance.  

The culvert that caused water to rush into teacher Marcia Rechholtz’s classroom has been drained.

“It’s crushed in a few places; the town is going to flush it out,” Webster said.

The school board has presented the town council with a $58 million request for the construction of a new building, which is almost $9 million less than the initial proposal. The working plan has a courtyard in the middle and would provide the students a safer school without water infiltration, ancient boilers, broken fuse boxes, and would keep closets as closets rather than classrooms. The town voters would approve or disapprove the request in June.

A plan with no courtyard added more square feet and more expense. The airflow was also not as efficient without the courtyard and the structure became less efficient to heat and cool.

“We believe we can really help the community embrace the importance of the school rebuild,” said School Committee Chair Alexandra (Lilea) Simis.

She stressed that the people of Bar Harbor have a chance to make a difference to the children of Bar Harbor and the future students who attend school here.

She hopes that a separate fundraising committee can find donors who might help defray the costs. At a recent Warrant Committee meeting, members spoke of trying to get local nonprofits to donate to the school’s reconstruction rather than payments in lieu of taxes. That had not been previously discussed with the school board.

“This building is falling apart and it’s been falling apart for a long time,” Vice Chair Marie Yarborough said. “There are people who still think this building can be saved.”

That time has passed, she said. She said the school and its phenomenal staff has been bucking up and making do with an inadequate, ailing structure school year after school year.

“We’ve been bucking up for a long time. We have one shot to do this. We need to make sure that everyone understands the beauty and excellence that comes out of here,” Yarborough said.  That beauty and excellence occurs despite the lack of excellence in the actual structure.

“No homeowner or business owner would put up with this from their facility,” board member Tyson Starling said, referencing buckets on tables catching rain, buckets in the gym capturing leaks, buckets in bathrooms capturing water in places where water shouldn’t be.

“We shouldn’t be operating in a culture of depravity,” Yarborough said.


Also at the meeting, the board approved two leave requests (5-0) and authorized Simis to sign a notice of intent to form a regional school unit. This declares that the board wants to create a regional planning committee, which is often called an RPC.

The composition of the RPC requires each town in the district to provide as a member:

1.     One board member

2.     One town officer

3.     One community member

Next, the RPC would create a plan. It would hold meetings open to the community and stakeholders. The final approval would go to each town to vote on via a referendum.

There are currently 1,418 students in the school system, Zboray said. He stressed that the outcome is about finding the best idea that makes the best sense for students and a realistic end date would likely be 2025.

If approved, the governing body would be between 8 to 16 members elected regionally, but with a town residency requirement.

 If the reorganization occurs, there would be one budget for the entire school district, “no matter in which community you live.” Teachers would also be employed by the district.

The rationale for the change is that it would create “stronger, better-coordinated curriculum experiences across schools; more efficiently designed and delivered special education programming and services; greater access to extra- and co-curricular activities; and more opportunities for students to form successful peer groups and be grouped for teaching in a manner that best meets their needs.”


Conners Emerson Building For Our Future Project dedicated website

Total Reorganization? New Early Release Days?

School Construction Costs Decrease by Almost $9 Million

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