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April 9, 2018

Marine-based magnet school set to open in Searsport

The Maine Ocean School, a new public magnet high school with a marine-based curriculum, is scheduled to open in Searsport for the fall 2018 semester.

The Bangor Daily News reported the school is in the process of hiring a director and is also looking to hire teachers and other staff.

The school's curriculum will offer courses in marine science, marine transportation, marine engineering and marine management. Enrollment is expected to be capped at 30 students in the school's first year.

"There's a lot of things in the air right now," Eric Jergenson, an assistant professor at Maine Maritime Academy who serves as chairman of Maine Ocean School's board, told the BDN. Organizers are looking into the idea of holding classes in an underused wing of Searsport District Middle and High School.

Focus on Maine’s maritime connection

According to the school's website, the Searsport location is designed to offer proximity to coastal communities, working waterfronts and institutions such as Penobscot Marine Museum, University of Maine and Maine Maritime Academy. The school plans to enroll up to 10 residents and 20 commuters during the 2018-2019 school year. As a public magnet school, students from Maine will attend the school free of tuition charges. It's expected that residence will be required for students, but the board of trustees is making an exception to the rule for the school's start-up years.

The goal of the school is to serve high school students in grades 9-12, but the first year will serve students in grades 10-11.

The school's mission is to provide a theme-based high school education focused on Maine's maritime connection, with an emphasis on leadership, work ethic, and the transferable skills associated with careers involving the ocean. The academic program will provide core content in career and education development, English language arts, health and physical education, math, science and technology, social studies and visual and performing arts, plus specialized programs with the ocean as a theme, such as oceanography, aquaculture, transportation, ship handling, meteorology, engineering, marine propulsion, marine electronics, management, vessel construction, marine business, marine biology, philosophy of the sea, maritime history, sailing and geometry of navigation.

?According to The Coast Guard Proceedings, there are more than 45 marine science and maritime high schools across the country, with more opening each year. Post-secondary maritime academies also enjoy unprecedented high demand, and shortages are anticipated within the maritime workforce.

Maritime schools are mostly found near major U.S. ports along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, as well as on the Great Lakes, in cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Toledo , San Diego, Houston, Baltimore, Palm Beach and Seattle, according to Marine Link.

The schools can be separated into two main categories: marine, which focuses on oceanology, biology and marine sciences; and maritime, which deals with subjects, training and skills required to work in the maritime sector, whether it be as a crew member at sea or shoreside such as in a marine, shipyard or port facility.

The schools teach general subjects (math, science, history, etc.) mixed with maritime themes. Each school meets required state common core requirements, but with a maritime flavor.

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