OAKLAND — The Regional School Unit 18 school board discussed, at a meeting Wednesday evening, findings from an assistant state fire marshal which went through each school and found 104 problems or hazards.

The report was written by Richard McCarthy, who is also a member of the facilities committee and noticed problems during visits to the schools, board Chairman Jim Isgro said.

While the district has dealt with many of the hazards on the list, some have yet to be addressed either because of the price tag or how they would change the schools.

For example, the report says there was “an excessive amount of artwork” on the walls of Atwood Elementary School at the time of the inspection, and that artwork should only cover 20 percent of the walls.

“If it’s been pointed out that artwork in the hallways is a fire hazard, that should be addressed,” said board member Mary-Anne LaMarre, of Oakland.

Board member Andrew Cook, of Rome, also said that all of the hazards should be remedied, regardless of cost.


“There’s some pretty hefty price tags on some of this work,” said Bobbi Avery, chief operations officer for the district.

The administration plans to provide an updated list of items that still need to be addressed for financial or other reasons at the next board meeting.

The district is also planning to apply for major capital school construction money from the state to aid in its effort to improve the district’s buildings.

The school board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to allow the administration to apply for money for China Middle School and possibly Belgrade Elementary School. However, the board won’t get the schools’ “ratings” that determine how soon they receive funding until December 2018, superintendent Gary Smith said, and it may not see the result of the application for a decade.

The district has sought such money for China Middle School in the past, but it is still in the 60s on the list of schools in the state, which typically funds the first 10 or 15.

Smith also told the board that the state is pushing consolidation projects when it agrees to fund construction of a new school.


“They would lead you through an exercise of building a new elementary school somewhere … for all those towns,” he said.

With a declining enrollment, the use of space in the district is an issue Smith said the board will have to look at. Messalonskee High School had 1,000 students more than 10 years ago, and is down to about 770 today.

In other business, board member Tom Burton, a member of the extracurricular committee, gave an update on a proposed plan to install a track and field at Messalonskee High School.

The school board voted in December to accept gifts of services from companies to survey the area, which Lisa Burton, president of the school’s sports boosters board, had said was a necessary first step to get a cost estimate.

Tom Burton told the board that the soil and site tests came back “favorable” and the committee working on the project is working on getting a cost estimate for installing a track and field.

The track is now called the “dirt oval,” according to Burton, and is suitable only for practice, though it still poses a safety hazard in some weather conditions. Messalonskee High School is also the only Class A school in Maine with a track and field program but not no real track, she said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239


Twitter: @madelinestamour

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