The Rockland-area School Board voted Thursday night, Feb. 1, to accept a lower rate of tuition for St. George students attending Oceanside High School.

The board was divided, however, with some members saying this means RSU 13 is subsidizing St. George.

The 4-2 vote came after the St. George Municipal School District canceled the tuition agreement that has been in place since the town withdrew from RSU 13 in 2015. The current agreement will expire at the end of this school year.

The withdrawal agreement between the two districts currently has St. George paying about $14,500 per student per year. The state-approved tuition rate is $10,886.

RSU 13 Business Manager Peter Orne said the per-pupil cost to RSU 13 for educating students is in excess of $13,000.

St. George Superintendent Mike Felton said Friday morning he was pleased to hear that RSU 13 agreed to accept the St. George high school students for the lower tuition rate set in state law.

Felton said the state tuition rate is what St. George pays to the other districts where high school students attend.

St. George has 82 high school students. The largest number — 42 — go to Oceanside High School in Rockland. Another 24 attend Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, seven attend Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, seven attend Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, one attends the Watershed School in Camden and the remainder go elsewhere.

"We wanted to pay what is fair," Felton said. "We have a lot of respect for the staff and programs at Oceanside," the superintendent said. "We want our students to be able to go there."

RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald said the district wants the students from St. George to come to Oceanside.

He expressed concern, however, that students and parents in St. George were being told that without an agreement, Oceanside would not be an option for their students starting next year. He said St. George can't stop parents from sending their children to Oceanside, and if there had been no agreement, RSU 13 would simply have sent a bill to St. George at the state tuition rate.

RSU 13 Board Chairman Loren Andrews said the district welcomes St. George students. "We will be committed to them as we are all our students. We are all one community," Andrews said.

At the Jan. 10 St. George School Board meeting, Felton said other high schools want St. George students and are actively recruiting them, according to the minutes of the meeting.

The decision to accept St. George students at the lower rate beginning in the next school year was not unanimous. Board members Carol Bachofner of Rockland and Ron Gamage of Thomaston voted against it.

Gamage said RSU 13 would be subsidizing St. George.

The vote was 4-2, with Andrews, and Rockland board members Nancy Jeffers, Gerald Weinand and Tom Peaco supporting the agreement at the state tuition rate.

RSU 13 includes Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.