London, England, was the first figurative stop of the May 19 School Administrative District 40 school board meeting at Medomak Valley High School. Next was Paris, France, as students described their recent travels.

It got closer to home — Route 131 in South Thomaston — for a discussion of the Many Flags project for a grades 9-16 campus. And the meeting ended at the Union/Washington town line for a debate and vote on “efficient transportation of students to and from the schools.”

The board voted to use the Transfinder software and recommendations from administrators to reduce the time students spend on the bus traveling to school. The vote could result in a change of schools for a few students. The school district will analyze bus routes; it is possible, for example, that students living near the Union/Washington line could attend a school that is physically closer, rather than the school that is in their hometown. Parents and students who show a compelling reason to stay at the hometown school could continue to do so with a superintendent’s agreement.

SAD 40 Board Chairman Bonnie Davis Micue said for educational purposes the towns of Friendship, Union, Waldoboro, Warren and Washington should be considered as a district.

“We need to begin to look at this as a district and stop thinking about town lines,” Micue said. “We are never going to solve any of our problems as long as everything is based on a town line.”

Gail Hawes and Sherrie Clark voted against the authorization. Hawes said she did not want to approve a blanket policy on moving students to different schools to balance classrooms. She wanted to see the software used to generate bus routes, and what it produced. Clark was frustrated that students get to school a few minutes early and then just sit on the bus.

Micue said the vote was less about balancing classrooms and more about the efficient transportation of students.

Many Flags

Alan Hinsey, executive director of the Many Flags/One Campus Foundation, the nonprofit formed last year to help raise funds for the Many Flags project, gave board members an update on the combined campus effort. Last year, the Maine Department of Education defined the Many Flags/One Campus model as an innovative educational model. The project entails combining a new Regional School Unit 13 Oceanside High School, Region 8 Mid-Coast School of Technology, college facilities for the University of Maine and Maine Community College, as well the Marine Systems Training Center.

In March, Many Flags/One Campus Foundation said it signed a purchase and sale agreement for 205 acres on Route 131 in South Thomaston for a project site.

At the May 19 SAD 40 meeting, several board members raised questions about the process by which the Anderson Farm site would be incorporated into the final decision when it is time for the public to choose a location for the campus.

Board members also asked if a more central location was considered, because Medomak Valley and Camden Hills Regional high schools send students to the career and technical school (Mid-Coast School of Technology) in Rockland.

“We have maintained all along that the Route 90 corridor would be the most accessible area,” Hawes said.

Board member Danny Jackson asked if the Many Flags Foundation was putting the cart before the horse with a purchase and sale agreement when voters have not given their approval.

“How can the Many Flags Foundation be a truly independent group when you have a number of people on the board who have a vested interest in the project,” Jackson said.

Hinsey said it wasn’t a fair question because foundation members do not stand to make money on the project.

“These are dedicated people, just like you are, who are spending their nights on many different boards trying to make things happen that are good for their kids,” Hinsey said.

Hawes said it was a fair question.

“It’s good for their kids in their district and yet you’re going to be taking a large portion of kids from outside the district, and those are our kids,” Hawes said. “So if you want to look at it that way, those are our kids and we’ve felt all along that we don’t have a say in it.”

Board member Tod Brown said the SAD 40 district has had “at best minimal representation” with the Many Flags process.

“There’s no representation here on this board from our district,” Brown said.

“I want some,” Hinsey replied.

Brown said, “It’s kind of late in the process.”

Brown reminded everyone that SAD 40 wanted to be part of the conversation about a combined high school.

“I was here at the beginning. I know what happened,” Brown said. “You came here and said, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ And our immediate response was ‘That’s a good idea. Can we be included?’ And the exact quote that was given to me was, “We’re sorry, that train has left the station.’”

Accreditation

Medomak Valley High School Principal Harold Wilson provided an update on the ongoing accreditation process. He said the school has accomplished a lot with education programs, but the New England Association of Schools and Colleges has concerns about the portable classrooms.