New magnet school will focus on maritime education

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SEARSPORT - Famous for ship captains, Searsport will soon be home to a school helping to continue the town's sea-faring history.

"There's something in the water here in Searsport," said Cipperly Good, curator and collections manager for the Penobscot Marine Museum.

For generations, Searsport was known as a maritime hub, famous for its captains and ship-building industry.

Locals hope a new public magnet school will continue that tradition.

"I believe the entire town is behind it," said Jack Merrithew, chair of selectmen for the town of Searsport.

"The idea of the school is to make sure that kids that want to work on the water and are really drawn naturally and have an aptitude for being on the water get a reality of what's out there to be done," said Captain Eric Jergenson, chair of the board of trustees for the school.

The Maine Ocean School has been years in the making, and will have a curriculum focused on marine science, technology, transportation and engineering.

"It's really an opportunity to get our kids a chance to be educated in Maine in a focused track, and get an opportunity to be able to come back and live and work in Maine," said Jergenson.

The school plans to be up and running by 2018, and in the meantime a lot of planning has to occur to make sure all the details are smoothed out, including exactly where the school will be housed,.

"It's a growing issue. When we start out, we have a smaller number of students, we have different needs than when we grow larger," Jergenson said.

The school will still offer core classes like English and Phys. Ed., just with an ocean theme.

Students can take advantage of the Port of Searsport to learn about maritime trades in a hands-on environment.

"It's an excellent opportunity to train our young people. We have all the resources, we have the history," said Merrithew.

"And so that taps into the jobs and the resources, and how to think about 'Here's the past, here's the present and then the future of this industry,'" said Good.

The school's board of trustees will hold its monthly planning meeting Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 PM.

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