News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 21, 2012
Penobscot school board
Penobscot Community School parking lot project ready for bids

by Anne Berleant

At a November 13 meeting, school board members approved bid documents for a parking lot expansion project first proposed, and approved by voters, in 2006.

Engineer Andrew McCullough brought detailed specifications for the project that would add 49 spaces to the lot between Penobscot Community School and the fire department.

The expansion will be constructed 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.

The board approved the bidding documents, which ask for a “two-bid” option, one that specifies a stone dust surface and one that calls for three inches of asphalt pavement. The project would be completed in a 45-day period next summer.

After a detailed discussion on the different lot surfaces—stone dust could delay paving for two or three years or perhaps suffice in itself—the board asked for the two different bids to present at town meeting in March.

“Let’s give them a choice,” said Chairman Jerry Markley.

Bids for the project will be advertised, with notification sent to the five contractors who submitted bids on earlier plans.

“They put a lot of work into [the original bids],” noted Markley.

Those earlier bids, opened at the board’s August 16 meeting, ranged from $28,900 to $62,100, with contractors in attendance stating that the site plans were not detailed enough to accurately estimate labor and materials cost.

Because all bids were over the $20,000 that voters authorized for a reserve account at the 2006 town meeting, the board decided to rebid the project, using the new detailed specifications, and then take the numbers to town meeting to ask voters for additional funds. McCullough was contracted to design the new specifications.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a proposal brought by bus driver Glen Ashe that would allow him to drive George Stevens Academy students to after-school sports games using the Penobscot bus. GSA would pay an hourly rate plus mileage for that use, with proceeds deposited in the Penobscot bus reserve account, and an hourly rate to Ashe for his driving services.

“It’s in the discussion stage,” Ashe said, using rates of $40 per hour for the bus, $1 per mile, and a $20 hourly rate for Ashe. As a comparison, Ashe said that First Student bus transportation company charges $65 per hour for its buses.

Board members stipulated that GSA provide verification of insurance and approval of the proposal by its school board.

Principal Allen Cole reported on a public informational meeting held in October with Linda Laughlin, assistant superintendent for RSU 18 and co-chair of the Maine Cohorts for Customized Learning, a statewide coalition of schools that support customized, “grade-less” learning.

Cole said he was “somewhere between interested and excited” at the idea of joining MCCL as an associate member, which is free and requires no commitment from the school. Associate members can use MCCL resources on teaching children based on learning levels instead of grade levels.

Board member Jen Pert said that customized learning was a large focus of workshops at last month’s Maine School Management Association conference.

A discussion followed on the prominent role of technology in customized learning—and of large technology companies that provide curriculum and content to the programs—and how students would fare in high school after graduating from an elementary school that used such a program.

“We’re sort of creeping along, checking it out as we go,” said Cole.

Superintendent Mark Hurvitt reported that as of October 1, enrollment at the school was 73 students, with 22 additional elementary age children enrolled at Bay School or other area schools, or being home schooled. For high school students, 10 Penobscot residents attend either GSA, Bucksport, Blue Hill Harbor School and Hancock County Technical Center and two are home schooled.

Ashe suggested outreach to home schooled students for elementary sports teams.

Coaching appointments were approved for Jim Dow, boys “A” basketball; Dan Pert, girls “B” basketball, and Rhoda Clifford, boys “B” basketball.

The board next meets on December 10 at 7 p.m., with the Union 93 board meeting on November 20 at the Penobscot Community School at 5:30 p.m.