It’s 6 pm on a weeknight, and the school parking lot still has several cars in it. The gym lights glare and the squeak of tennis shoes can be heard from the pottery class where several adults are learning to throw pots, and from the library where a town committee sits to discuss the evening’s agenda.
While a school’s primary role may be the care and education of a community’s children, a rural public school tends to serve many more purposes within its town and district. Our schools are centers of civic education, community employment, and entertainment. Beyond providing a place to gather as a community, they serve as the glue that binds a community together.
Local recreational programs, fitness classes, and adult education courses fill the halls and classrooms of our buildings long after the students have gone home for the day. Our schools host events from fishing derby weigh-ins to charity fundraisers. School events like plays, concerts, and athletic competitions offer community members an opportunity for society and entertainment. We serve as a meeting place for community groups such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Messalonskee Trail Riders, the East Pond Association, and the Scouts. School libraries and playgrounds are often open to public use at certain times, and our cafeterias, gyms, and performance centers offer spaces for voting, rallies, and town meetings.
Not only are the various facilities available for public use, but students volunteer in our communities in a variety of capacities. Student councils, JMG, and Key Club raise money for local charities. The middle school students rake lawns, the high school students put in community service hours and participate in the Day of Caring, and chorus students from throughout the district perform at community nursing homes. Staff also participate by contributing jeans day dollars to the homeless shelter, helping head up school-wide food drives, and setting up giving trees or adopting families during the holidays.
And in turn, the schools thrive because of community support. Residential taxes help fund our programs. Local churches and food pantries work with the schools to provide clothing, food, and toys for children in need. Grants from the PTO, The Alfond Foundation, Inland Hospital, the Masons Rural Lodge 53 and others help provide technology, field trips, bikes, books, teaching materials, and other forms of classroom assistance. Local camps and summer programs offer scholarships for our students to attend, and each town offers local scholarships for students to continue their education.
This crucial partnership benefits us all in numerous ways. If you want to become more involved with your school district there are many ways to do so. You can volunteer in your area school, you can join the PTA, and of course, you can help continue to make our schools even better by being involved in the budget process and coming out to vote on June 13th. Together we can make our community even stronger.