LEWISTON/AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – It’s a tale of two cities – which might become one. Talks of a merger are heightening in Lewiston and Auburn, eleven days from election day.
But what would this mean for students and their schools?
NOW sat down with two committee members from each side of the river to find out.
Who was at the table? Tom Kendall (Auburn), Bonnie Hayes (Auburn), Megan Parks (Lewiston), and Tina Hutchinson (uncontested candidate for Lewiston).
“The question is being asked everywhere by everyone,” said Parks. “It seems to be the biggest hot button topic right now.”
What would happen immediately in the school systems, if the merger were to pass?
The answer might surprise you. “Nothing,” says Bonnie Hayes with a laugh.
These committee members say nothing drastic would change in the first two years if the merger were passed.
They haven't discussed budget, consolidation, possible rezoning, or much else - but they're in agreement that they don't want much change.
The say the Edward Little Red Eddies would remain the Edward Little Red Eddies. Likewise, the Lewiston Blue Devils would remain the Lewiston Blue Devils.
Both Hayes and Hutchinson are on the Merger Education Committee - which tries to determine a plan, should the merger pass.
They say keeping the high schools separate is the only thing they've agreed upon – and it’s not even officially decided.
Parks compares it to Portland and Deering. “They're in the same community and they have two separate schools,” she explained. “If the merger were to go through, I don't think it would be a big deal to have an Auburn school and a Lewiston school and maintain the same sports rivalries and the fun that comes with it, but having their own identities.”
The committee members say they already work together regularly - and that that won't be an issue.
“We do work together, absolutely, We share a lot of services,” said Kendall. “So there is a shared commitment to students in both cities. We shoulder those burdens jointly.”
But as for any other plans - these committee members say they haven't even discussed it, and that they're focused on making both school systems better.
“The role of education in any community - not just Lewiston/Auburn - it really is a foundation for economic development,” Kendall explained. “If you don't have an excellent school system, you're not going to attract the young families, you're not going attract the businesses, you're not going to be able to provide employment opportunities, your real estate values aren't going to continue to increase. You're not going to expand. You're not going to grow."
As far as the elementary and middle schools go - the committee members did say they've considered just keeping them all open, but expanding choice, meaning parents could be able to choose where their kids go to school.