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Who's Looking Out for Rural Schools?

As the most northeastern town in the United States., Madawaska, Maine, also has the unique status of being one of the “four corners” of the nation. Situated in Aroostook County on the St. Johns River that forms part of the U.S.-Canadian border, Madawaska’s residents are deeply proud of their Acadian roots (French is the first language for many), which gives this small town a cultural affinity with its neighbors to the north. In fact, the nearest populous area is Quebec City, about 200 miles southwest. The closest U.S. city is Bangor, about the same distance directly south.

“We’re pretty far up here,” says Gisele Dionne, superintendent of Madawaska public schools. “I look out my window and see the mountains of Canada.”

The district serves about 440 students (30 of which come from neighboring Grand Isle) in a preK-6 elementary school and a 7-12 middle/high school. The two schools are bedrocks of the community, resilient even as financial challenges have mounted over the past decade.