Summit Academy students on the move once again

4 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The search for a more permanent, temporary home for students enrolled in the Summit Academy appears to be over. 


The Houlton Planning Board gave its unanimous approval Thursday, Jan. 30, on a request from RSU 29 to open a public school at 2 High Street for its Summit Academy students.

That means students enrolled in the alternative education program will be moving for the second time in a month, following a Jan. 9 fire that rendered the primary location unsuitable for classes. The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical.

The Summit Academy is a four-district collaborative alternative education school for RSU 29 (Houlton), SAD 70 (Hodgdon), RSU 50 (Southern Aroostook) and SAD 14 (East Grand). The program opened in September, thanks to a large grant from the Maine Department of Education, and has about 30 students from the four school districts enrolled. 

Members of the Houlton Planning Board unanimously approved a plan to relocate the Summit Academy to 2 High Street for the remainder of the school year during a Jan. 30 meeting. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Summit Academy, located at 56 Military Street, is a converted church which served as the home of Military Street Baptist Church for nearly 100 years. The building — constructed in 1919 — was purchased in 2019 by the collaboration of school districts thanks to a $570,000 grant from the state’s Fund for Efficient Delivery of Educational Services program to create a regional alternative education center for students.

Following the fire, students relocated to the Military Street Baptist Church for its classes and have spent the past three weeks taking courses there while a more suitable space could be located.

RSU 29 Superintendent Ellen Halliday told members of the planning board that Summit Academy is designed for students who may have difficulty in regular classroom settings and benefit greatly from a more focused structure away from their respective high schools.

“One sign that the program is working is that all of the students who were attending actually cared about what was going to happen to their building,” Halliday said. “They were very concerned that it might mean the end of the program for them.”

The building has to be inspected by the state fire marshal’s office before any move could happen. Halliday said her hope is to move the students to the new building by Feb. 10, so that they have a week of getting used to the facility before February break. She added the cost of renting the new location will be covered by the Academy’s insurance.

Only one resident, Peter Smaligo, spoke at the public hearing. Smaligo said he lives in the dwelling abutting the property and while he expressed his support for the project, he questioned how the flow of buses to the property might affect traffic in the area. 

RSU 29 Bus Director Joe Schneider said the traffic flow for the buses was still being looked at, but he did not anticipate any adverse effect on the residences in that area, since many of the buses already stop in that location for students who live nearby.

Halliday said she hoped the students would be able to return to their normal facility by the start of the next school year.