Brunswick’s Region 10 Technical High School serves a complementary role to four area high schools — students go to their “sending school” to learn subjects like English and math, then come to Region 10 to study auto repair or train as a nursing assistant. But an upcoming study will investigate whether Region 10 has what it takes to become a “comprehensive” high school, where students could enroll full time and learn both “academic” and technical subjects.
This summer, Region 10 received a $250,000 grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to study the feasibility of becoming a comprehensive, four-year academic and technical school. The study will take a year or more and will determine if Region 10 has the population and programs to support such a school.
Nancy Chandler, a Topsham representative to the Maine School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors and a Mt. Ararat High School representative to the Region 10 Cooperative Board, spoke about the grant at the MSAD 75 board’s July meeting.
“A large group of people have been working on this whole idea for over a year and working with the Alfond Foundation to see if they could support us financially, to do the research, the geographical research of the need for this, the practical research of how would you divide the program, what would it cost to build such a building,” Chandler said.
“The state would be funding this regional school if we can prove in the next year or two, whatever the time it takes to do this study, that we have a viable program,” Chandler added.
Region 10 serves students from Brunswick, Freeport and Mt. Ararat high schools, as well as Harpswell Coastal Academy, with 15 half-day programs. According to Region 10 Assistant Director John Stivers, school leaders have long seen a need for a comprehensive school, given the difficulty of facilitating access to programs for students from each district.
“It’s understandably difficult for school districts we partner with to have exactly the same schedule as us,” Stivers said. “Even though they do their best and have done a pretty good job over the years of getting kids here all at the same time from the different sending schools, sometimes, through their unique scheduling needs or transportation issues, kids would get here at different times.”
A comprehensive school would eliminate the need to shuttle students between Region 10 and their sending schools.
The change would not be unprecedented — Region 10 leadership has been studying schools that have made similar transitions. Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, of Massachusetts, frequently comes up in discussion, as does the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone.
Region 10’s new superintendent and director, Shawn Chabot, hopes a comprehensive high school would replicate the best of both models while catering to the Midcoast’s unique geography and labor needs.
Midcoast employers like Bath Iron Works and L.L. Bean “are hungry for skilled labor,” Chabot said. “And it’s not that the traditional career technical schooling is wrong, but could we think outside the box and create something that is different that could even meet the needs better of employers and our students?”
Region 10 is finalizing the hire of a project manager to collaborate with research institutions on the study. School leaders will oversee the work. Stivers emphasized that once complete, the results of the study will be publicly available.