News Feature

Penobscot
Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 12, 2012
After five years in works
Penobscot Community School parking lot project goes out to bid

by Anne Berleant

“It’s been five years coming,” said Chairman Jerry Markley at the school board’s July 8 meeting. His statement was in reaction to hearing that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Town of Penobscot had signed off on plans to expand the school parking lot.

A last-minute delay occurred last month when town selectmen briefly questioned the 1.8-acre parcel behind the school chosen by consultant Hugh Durgin, and approved by the DEP, as mitigation land.

The DEP requires an area of wetland be permanently set aside to offset, or mitigate, wetland used in construction projects. Selectmen discussed moving that parcel south, to avoid using up lot space between the school’s septic system and the access road running behind the school.

Further discussion with Durgin revealed that this 1.8-acre lot held the least value in the strip of land running behind the school, the firehouse and the nursing home.

“There was a realization that this was the worst piece of land…To give it up wasn’t a big deal after all,” Hurvitt told board members.

The expansion project calls for 40 parking spaces to be added to the existing lot on a 180’ x 120’ area, which is part of a 40-acre town-owned lot. Overflow parking along Route 199 for school and community events has been deemed a safety hazard by the town selectmen and school board.

Voters approved spending $20,000 in 2006 on the project, and at town meeting in 2012 voted to spend it this year.

Hurvitt called $20,000 “the magic figure” for the project. Bids are due on Friday, August 10, and the board will award the bid at its August 13 meeting. The contracted work must be completed by September 3, before school starts. Hurvitt encouraged bids from local contractors.

In other business, board members approved Judy Park as the new art teacher, replacing Deborah Belyea who retired last month. Park will adopt Belyea’s schedule of two days in Penobscot and two at Adams School in Castine.

The board also approved authorizing Hurvitt to use contingency funds toward the purchase of a new refrigerator.

“That’s what the contingency fund is for,” said Markley.

Hurvitt reported that the Union 93 office is taking bids for one local copier company to serve all five schools, and the union office in Blue Hill. Currently, four companies serve 12 copiers in six buildings.

“It would definitely save us money,” Hurvitt said.

He also submitted a report from George Stevens Academy. Four Penobscot students received diplomas on June 10, and a new 2012-13 schedule will add 3.5 weeks of classroom teaching without adding a single day of school.

Covering both his principal’s report and an update on the Penobscot School Discussion Group, Allen Cole reported he is meeting with Linda Laughlin, the assistant superintendent of RSU 18, to learn about its proficiency-based teaching initiative first started in Oakland. RSU 18 now plans to expand the program throughout the RSU.

Proficiency-based learning teaches to students’ individual levels, then moves them forward as they become proficient in each content area, instead of using a grade-based approach. Oakland school first came to the group’s attention when one of its teachers, Shelly Moody, was awarded Teacher of the Year and Maine State Education Commissioner Steve Bowen visited the classroom.

The Penobscot School Discussion Group “doesn’t want to overstep,” said Cole. “They like to have a school board member [at meetings].”

Members completed a first reading of the PTF rules and regulations, with a second reading and possible board approval scheduled for next month.

The school board next meets on Monday, August 13, 6 p.m., at the school.