A public hearing to provide information and receive input on the proposed closure of the MacDougal School is set for Thursday, Jan. 14 at 6 p.m.

The meeting will be held at the McLain School at the intersection of Lincoln and Summer streets in Rockland.

The public hearing is a legal requirement prior to a Tuesday, Feb. 9 referendum in Rockland on the proposed closure. Polls will be open that day at Rockland City Hall, in the rear council chambers, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Regional School Unit 13 board voted Nov. 5 to close the 55-year-old elementary school on Broadway at the end of the current school year. The vote was 8-4 with the weighted vote tally being 614 points to 305. State law requires that a school closure vote by a school board be by at least two-thirds to go forward. The 614 points were two more than the two-thirds margin.

State law also requires the approval of the citizens of the community where the school is located.

The MacDougal School educates students in grades kindergarten and first grade, mainly from Rockland.

If Rockland residents reject the closure, the school will remain open but Rockland property taxpayers will be responsible for the additional cost of keeping it open.The annual savings from the closure are estimated at $363,133.

Superintendent Judy Lucarelli said the cost of closing will be determined during the budget process for 2010-2011 if closure is approved. She said it will depend on whether the boiler is moved and whether the board decides to keep the school and rent it. The district will compare the costs of hiring movers versus the cost of using staff for the move.

The school was built in 1954 and originally served students in kindergarten through fifth grade for the northern section of Rockland. The school was originally named the North School but in 1995 it was renamed the MacDougal School in honor of Doris Coltart MacDougal who served as the school’s first principal. In 1996, Maine School Administrative District 5 reorganized its elementary schools so that instead of neighborhood schools, the schools would be divided up by grades. MacDougal became the school for kindergarten through second-graders until 2005 when second-grade students were relocated to the South School in Rockland.

The school faced closure in early 2006 when tests showed poor air quality, which was linked to the old boiler and heating system. The school was closed for two weeks and the district spent nearly $200,000 to repair the heating system.

Last fall, the board agreed to spend more than $100,000 to replace the building’s boiler.