SAD 4 to vote on school closures

Posted April 14, 2009, at 11:28 p.m.

GUILFORD, MAine — SAD 4 directors will vote next month on a proposal to close the last two outlying elementary schools in 2011 in an effort to save funds and improve programs and offerings.

A transition committee of residents, teachers, board members and school administrators has proposed closing Guilford Primary School and McKusick Elementary School in Parkman in 2011 for a savings of about $500,000 at current year figures, according to SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns. That figure includes the possible reduction of two to four teachers, a secretary, a building administrator and two custodial positions, he said.

If directors vote next month to close the two schools, the matter will be presented at public hearings before a referendum is held in each of the district’s communities.

“It’s very difficult to plan long term financially,” Stearns said. If the economy worsens, he said, the move would have to be made for survival.

Directors on Tuesday viewed a rough sketch of the floor plans for the changes at both schools. Under the proposal, Piscataquis Community Middle School in Guilford would become home to about 318 pupils in pre-kindergarten through grade six. The younger grades would be on the first floor. The seventh and eight grades would move to Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford, which would have an anticipated enrollment of about 331.

Stearns said few changes would be needed at the middle school. The proposal calls for the superintendent’s office to be converted into a classroom for pre-kindergarten children. The superintendent’s office would be relocated to a portable classroom on district land at the campus entrance. A couple of portable classrooms at the outlying schools would be moved to the high school, at an estimated cost of $4,500 each, where they would serve as classrooms.

While modifications at the high school would not involve construction of load-bearing walls, a 28-foot-by-52-foot addition would be required at the east end of the school, according to Stearns. He believes students enrolled in the Tri-County Technical School Building Trades program could construct the addition.

Stearns also advised directors Tuesday they would act on the district budget next month.

“There are no alarming changes,” Stearns said of the spending plan. The budget committee has recommended an overall zero increase to local assessments. However, because of valuation changes, all but one town will see an increase. Guilford will see a decrease of $84,773 over the current year, which will be shifted to the other communities, according to Stearns. The increases over the current year for the towns are as follows: Wellington, $1,424; Sangerville, $25,648; Parkman, $20,348; Cambridge, $10,078; and Abbot, $27,272.

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