Board votes to close Mattawamkeag school

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 23, 2009, at 10:34 p.m.

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — Dr. Carl Troutt School will close by July 1 and its students will be bused to Ella P. Burr School in Lincoln in September unless residents petition to keep it open, officials said Friday.

The SAD 67 board of directors voted 7-1, with one abstention, on Wednesday to close the elementary school for the 2009-10 school year, which begins in September, citing an expected state funding shortfall and increasing costs associated with the school’s maintenance.

The only way to reverse the board’s decision would be for residents to petition for a referendum vote to keep it open and agree to the additional costs, officials said.

No one was happy with the vote, said board member Michele Morrison of Lincoln, who made the motion to close the school.

“None of us wanted to vote that way,” Morrison said Friday. “It was with a heavy heart that we did it, but I was convinced that it was the right thing to do for all of the students of the district. I thought it would be penalizing the majority of students of SAD 67 to keep that school open to satisfy a minority.”

According to figures compiled by SAD 67 Superintendent Michael Marcinkus, keeping Troutt open would mean maintaining per-pupil costs double those at Burr, Morrison said.

This would come in the face of expected state funding shortfalls this year and flat funding next year, Morrison said.

Troutt is one of the oldest, least-populated and most expensive school buildings to maintain in SAD 67, which serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag. Troutt has 49 students, while Burr, the district’s other elementary school, has 392. Mattanawcook Junior High School has 367 and Mattanawcook Academy, 448.

“We would have to make cuts to programs across the district to keep the school open,” Morrison said.

Morrison said she believed Troutt would be among five small schools statewide to close due to state education funding shortfalls, school reorganization or maintenance issues.

During a Dec. 16 meeting at Troutt, Marcinkus said that closing the school by July 1 would save a net $209,228 in the next fiscal year and a net $409,780 the next year. The closing includes the elimination of three teaching positions.

Included in the figures is the cost of building portable classrooms at Burr to house a grade to accommodate the influx of Troutt pupils and staff, he said.

The savings are especially important, Marcinkus said, given that an unanticipated influx of special-needs students forced the hiring of several specialists for about $100,000 and the state reduced its 2007-08 allocation to SAD 67 by $80,000.

School board secretary Sarah Crockett of Lincoln abstained from Wednesday’s vote because her daughter teaches at Troutt, she said Friday. Jessica Worster of Mattawamkeag was the only member to vote no. Member Becky Hanscom of Mattawamkeag was absent.

Marcinkus, Hanscom, Worster and Judy Junkins, board chairman, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

nsambides@bangordailynews.net

794-8215

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/01/23/news/board-votes-to-close-mattawamkeag-school/ printed on December 24, 2014