A floor plan for a career and technical education center to be added to Mt. Blue Middle School in Farmington shows two large, open classrooms and one smaller one. Regional School Unit 9 residents will vote Nov. 8 on whether to authorize the board of directors to accept a $2.5 million donation from the Bjorn Foundation to build and equip the center. Submitted drawing

FARMINGTON — Voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to authorize directors of Regional School Unit 9 to accept a $2.5 million donation from the Bjorn Foundation to build and equip a career and technical education center at Mt. Blue Middle School at 269 Middle St.

A public hearing on the project will be held Oct. 27.

It would be named the Bjorn Center for Career and Technical Education and not be affiliated with the Maine Department of Education’s career and technical education programs. The Farmington-based private foundation was established in 2020 by Richard Bjorn of Kyes Insurance.

The proposal is for a 5,000-square-foot wing off B-wing with three large, open classrooms, a smaller classroom and more storage for the middle school.

In a previous interview, Mt. Blue Middle School Principal James Black said the center would provide younger students with “hands-on learning.”

Though in the early planning stages, administrators are considering programs on information technology, architecture/construction and hospitality and tourism.

Beyond actual programming, Black and RSU 9 Superintendent Chris Elkington said the center has the potential to engage students, provide alternative forms of learning and offer preparation for the Foster Career and Technical Education Center programs at the Mt. Blue Campus, which includes the high school, and hopefully help with a workforce shortage in the trades.

Black believes the center could “be a model for schools in the future,” because it would be one of the first middle school centers of its kind in the state.

Administrators are also hoping the center can eventually be open to students outside of RSU 9.

Elkington said at the June 14 board of directors meeting that the Bjorn Foundation is offering to pay for the construction and equipment, but after that it will be up to RSU 9 taxpayers to cover costs such as utilities, cleaning, maintenance, an additional teaching position and program materials.

Elkington anticipates that if voters approve the project, the center could open by the 2023-24 school year.

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