One issue that has not been raised during the years of planning for the Many Flags, One Campus proposal is the impact that the physical loss of a high school would have on Rockland.

Just ask downtown Camden merchants about not having a high school within walking distance.

Having a high school physically in the community is not only a source of pride but a mini-economic engine. For at least 180 days each year, more than 400 students, scores of staff, and numerous parents come and go. Many of the people already live in Rockland but many others are from neighboring communities and having them come into the heart of the city means they may stop for gasoline, food, or other goods.

The high school often is also the center of cultural events. There are the concerts and plays that occur regularly or the sporting events that attract hundreds of people on an evening.

There has been little discussion of what would happen to the current high school building if the Many Flags, One Campus complex is built on Route 131 in South Thomaston. The RDHS building is one of the newest schools in the former SAD 5 inventory. The 49-year-old high school is a youngster compared to the McLain School or Lincoln Street Center building, which served as a high school for a century before serving for nearly three decades as a middle school.

The supporters of Many Flags point out that its educational model is the way of the future by having all segments of higher education (high school, community college, vocational education, etc.) all on one campus.

Whether the state will ever have enough money to pay for this project is the $64 million plus question.

The University of Maine at Rockland (UROCK) is located about one-half mile from RDHS. Students could walk or jog from the high school to college as part of their physical education component.

The vocational school is about two miles from the high school.

And in an era of technology, one wonders why all components of the schools need to be at one campus if the cost is so great at a time when there is not enough money to pay for current expenses.

There is no secret that some people prefer new buildings compared to renovating old ones. The shiny bells and whistles of a new school building are just so appealing to some. We live in a throwaway society where buildings are constructed to last only so long.

There have been many, many meetings about Many Flags, One Campus but there has not been the discussion of why the same education being touted could not be offered by simply using the facilities that already exist in Rockland.

We have a high school already in Rockland. We have a vocational school in Rockland. We have a university center in Rockland. We have boatyards in Rockland. We have industries in Rockland.

Coordinating these functions would take an effort but would likely cost less in the long run and come to fruition sooner than expecting the state and local voters to pony up millions more for a new school.

Back in the 1990s and 2000s, there was much discussion around the state of preventing sprawl. Abandoning the RDHS building and the vocational school and replacing it by building new on rural Route 131 would likely be considered a case study of sprawl.

While the Route 131 location is more centrally located within the RSU 13 geography, the fact is that the largest number of students in the district live in Rockland. Moving a school to an undeveloped lot in the shadow of the Dragon cement plant would result in more use of cars that would drive longer distances.

Most Rockland officials asked during council debates have voiced support for the Many Flags, One Campus project. But there could be other sides of this coin not yet explored.

But there is plenty of time to talk about those issues since no money is in the pipeline for the project.

Stephen Betts is associate editor. His commentary appears on Fridays.