SKOWHEGAN — The MSAD 54 school board will address how the district will proceed in its selection of a new mascot at its Oct. 3 meeting, but no action will be taken at that time, according to the school board chair.

A public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on renovating and improving Skowhegan Area High School facilities at a cost of up to $950,000 will precede the regular board meeting at 7 p.m.

Signs relating to Skowhegan Area High School’s former “Indians” mascot have been removed from the entrance sign on Norridgewock Road. Morning Sentinel photo by Meg Robbins

“Personally, I don’t think that we are anywhere near discussing the (new) mascot,” board chair Lynda Quinn said on Thursday. “I think people on both sides of the issue have a lot of feelings and have to heal first.”

Board members voted 14-9 to retire the Indian mascot on March 7.

Quinn said that board members will be presented with ideas on how to create a procedure to address the mascot issue at the Thursday night meeting.

“This isn’t just a walk in the park for us,” Quinn said. “We can’t make this decision lightly because it does involve the town and the people.”

Quinn also said that Skowhegan’s mascot change is unique from other schools around the state as much of the town’s identity is focused around the Indian.

“We are a long time down the road from making a decision. This is nothing that people are going to enter into quickly without a great deal of thought,” Quinn said.

Tensions flared up recently  after Todd Smith, owner of Maine Fire Equipment Co. and a member of the school board of directors, printed T-shirts with an “Indian Outlaw” logo. Smith voted against retiring the “Indians” nickname in March.

Recent mascot changes include Wells High School, which kept its Warrior mascot but dropped all Native American imagery. According to Superintendent Jim Daly, the mascot change cost the school up to $10,000 to replace imagery around school and on uniforms.

Sanford High School changed its mascot to Spartans in 2012. In Sanford’s case, mascot ideas were proposed by members of sports teams and community members and the student body had the final say in selecting the new mascot, the Spartan.

According to documents obtained by the Morning Sentinel, Brent Colbry, the school’s superintendent, estimated the cost of changing the mascot to be between $17,000 and $25,000. This includes replacing scoreboard and signage used by sports teams as well as changing the floor and walls in the high school gymnasium.

In May, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law prohibiting the use of Native American mascots in all public schools, colleges and universities. Maine is the first state to pass such a law.

The focus of the public hearing, which will be held in the middle school cafeteria before the board meeting, is the Nov. 5 referendum vote on the High School Facilities Renovation Bond.

The question calls for spending not more than $950,000 on rebuilding the high school track, installing an irrigation system in the soccer field, and renovating the high school auditorium for handicap access, including new seating, flooring and bathrooms. Bonds totaling not more than $750,000 have been proposed to be issued. Funding for the balance of the costs will come from a $100,000 grant from the New Balance Foundation and $100,000 from available district funds.

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