Ambitious, visionary, unique — the project Many Flags, One Campus has exceptional merits, most of all its emphasis on promoting higher education. The creative juices get flowing when one thinks about what learning could take place on a campus populated by high school and college students. This academic center could contribute intellectual spirit to a region that consistently supports the innovative.

The Many Flags project entails building not only a new high school to replace Rockland District and Georges Valley, but also a new facility for the Mid-Coast School of Technology, a building for college programs, and an industry training center. Proponents hope the Maine Department of Education will choose to fund this project rather than a similar Sanford proposal and we will know as soon as June if the state finds the $60 million application appealing.

But while broad in scope, the plan for Many Flags, One Campus prompts questions, and before the public is convinced it is a truly workable project, proponents must jump start the informational outreach work. Most importantly, how will this new campus benefit the broader Midcoast community?

The board of Maine School Administrative District 40 articulated some of its own fiscal and practical concerns when it chose not to endorse the state funding application. Likewise, the 8 to 5 vote endorsing the same application from the directors overseeing the Mid-Coast School of Technology illustrates that not everyone on that school board is comfortable with Many Flags. SAD 40, representing Waldoboro, Washington, Friendship, Union and Warren, wonders how much of a voice those towns will have in the plan’s shaping, and how much financial burden they would carry in supporting the new campus, in particular the new facility of the Mid-Coast School of Technology.

They also wonder about logistics, such as how much time students traveling to a Many Flags campus would spend sitting on a bus.

Which leads to the next question: Where is the Many Flags campus to be sited? The ideal campus size, proponents have said, approximates 100 acres of buildable land, and it must be centrally located to the Rockland-Thomaston area school district. Some discussions over the years have mentioned a field on Route 131 in Thomaston as a possible site; nothing, however, has been said recently about that. Yet where a campus is located is crucial to its success, especially when some of the students are coming from Waldoboro, Washington, Lincolnville, Appleton and Islesboro.

There are also unintended consequences of building a big new campus outside of town in a culture that relies on cars. We know it as sprawl, and we are familiar with the results — traffic, fender-benders, and, as is often the case in Maine, few or no provisions for alternative transportation.

When an institution such as a school leaves a downtown area for the outskirts a toll is taken on the center of a community. It happened to a degree in downtown Camden when the Camden Hills Regional High School was built on Route 90 in Rockport, and some Camden store owners still wistfully recollect the days when students would spend dollars in town.

Many Flags, One Campus has opened the doors to exploring new ideas about Midcoast education, and should be applauded for moving the discussion forward. At this point, we will all benefit from a series of meetings focusing on the nuts and bolts of the Many Flags concept, with all the players at the same table.

The principle tenet of the Many Flags concept is that co-location of several educational institutions on a single campus promotes integrated programs and leads to administrative efficiencies.

Maybe Many Flags can explore its educational goals first, however, before hanging too heavily on the one campus idea. Perhaps an integrated campus exists in a network, instead of on one lot of land.

It is encouraging to hear that creative thinking is already taking place in schools in the spirit of Many Flags. Students from area high schools take classes at the University College at Rockland, earning college credit. Students at the Mid-Coast School of Technology prepare meals for the other schools in Rockland, a great program that got off the ground thanks to enterprising staff. And this spring, the Mid-Coast School of Technology is offering preengineering at Rockland District High School, using classrooms there to achieve mutual goals. The cross-fertilization among schools has begun and it is the student who benefits. That’s the point.