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Special Session Will Examine Bill That Would Allow Maine Ocean School To Continue To Operate

In Monday’s special session bonds will dominate the action, but Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has submitted two bills to fix mistakes that cannot wait for the January session, including one to allow the Maine Ocean School, a magnet high school in Searsport, to continue to operate.

James Gillway is the former Republican state representative from Searsport who introduced the original legislation.

“The students that were there last year have committed to coming back this year and recruitment is on to increase the population,” says Gillway.

Gillway chairs the foundation that supports the school. The bill submitted by the Governor extends the sunset clause to give the school time to prove its worth. Supporters says with a need of 175,000 workers in the marine trades, they expect the school will grow and attract over a hundred students.

“There is 175,000 jobs that are going to become available and they have to be filled,” Gillway says. “And we have a history with the sea, I mean Maine was founded on farming and fishing.”

Gov. Paul LePage planned to veto legislation to establish the school in 2015, but he waited too long to veto it and dozens of other bills, which then became state law after a decision by the Maine Supreme Court.

As a public magnet school, Maine Ocean School is funded through a state reimbursement for a portion of the cost of each student the school educates. A nonprofit foundation is responsible for raising the rest of the money needed to support the school.

The Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone is the state’s only other public magnet high school.