Schools keep islands alive


Schools represent the heart and future of Maine’s island communities.

The last time an island community lost its school was in 1941 when Criehaven, a Penobscot Bay island more than 20 miles offshore, couldn’t find a teacher, says Philip Conkling, president of the Island Institute in Rockland.

So the children, accompanied by their mothers, went to school on the mainland. Without women and children, the island store couldn’t stay in business, the mailboat ended service and the men got lonely and moved to the mainland as well. Within a couple of years, the island lost its year-round population – all because the school closed.

Today, there are schools on 14 of Maine’s 15 islands with year-round communities. Most of the schools go through the fifth or eighth grade.