History repeats itself in Sebago

By Allen Crabtree

SEBAGO — Sometimes, the more things change, the less change there really is.

If you view the education of Sebago’s children in the context of history, it appears that the town has come full circle over the years and the town’s current educational situation seems like history repeating itself.

Education of children has been a Sebago priority from the town’s early days, where there were many small one-room school houses scattered around town. These operated for many years. It was a red-letter day in March 1950 when Dorothy Spaulding gave to the town the building and land for the town’s first consolidated grammar school. This structure was built as an inn in 1880 before additions and being converted to a school. Located in East Sebago, it was ideally situated to house the town’s elementary students. As Sebago Elementary School, it became the focal point of this little town, providing a quality education for children.

Potter Academy was another significant Sebago educational institution. To meet the educational needs of older children, the Academy was built in 1895 in Center Sebago as the town’s high school and operated there for 76 years.

All that changed in 1971 when Sebago joined Maine School Administrative District 61 (MSAD 61). At that time, Sebago transferred the deed for the elementary school and a portion of the land that was included with the school building to SAD 61. Sebago’s elementary students continued to be educated at Sebago Elementary School, but it was now one of four elementary schools in the district. Sebago’s Potter Academy was closed, and along with the other towns in SAD 61 (Naples, Casco and Bridgton), Sebago’s older students attended Lake Region Middle and High Schools in Naples.

Sebago leaves SAD 61

Sebago’s relationship with SAD 61 had its ups and downs over the years, but the persistent threat of SAD 61 closing Sebago Elementary School was one of several factors that precipitated Sebago’s withdrawal from SAD 6.

After two years of negotiating, a withdrawal agreement was reached whereby Sebago would leave SAD 61 and become an independent municipal school system. On Nov. 7, 2017, Sebago voters overwhelmingly approved withdrawing from SAD 61 after 46 years and the Sebago School Department was born.

As the saying goes: “what goes around, comes around.” As part of the withdrawal agreement, SAD 61 transferred the Sebago Elementary School building and land to the Town of Sebago on July 2, 2018, back to where they used to be many years before. Sebago Elementary School now belongs to the town again, and once again Sebago has its own school and the independence to educate children as residents see fit. As part of the withdrawal agreement, older students will go to Lake Region middle and high schools, or to other school districts.

What will the future hold?

Now that education in Sebago has come full circle, what will the future hold? Being on our own is a little scary as the town is now responsible for not just the education of children but also all the other details that were handled by SAD 61 when Sebago was part of it.

There is great value, however, in being masters of our destiny and things are off to a very good start since the Sebago School Department began operations on July 1, 2018.  School started on Aug. 29, 2018 at our own Sebago Elementary School with a full complement of good teachers and staff, eager students, super supportive parents and the strong backing of the Sebago community. If history is any guide, Sebago will do fine on its new course, melding our heritage of dedication to the quality education of our children with a firm commitment to a bright future for them and our town.

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