The East Range II Community School District, SAD 30, and Unions 107 and 110 were awaiting word Wednesday on whether they can avoid facing $170,000 in fines by consolidating as the Eastern Maine Area School Systems.
With conditional approval having come on Friday, the Maine Department of Education’s final endorsement of EMASS is due any day now, Union 107 Superintendent Barry McLaughlin said. State education officials were deliberating on the application Wednesday. Still, their approval might not guarantee the avoidance of the fines, which would come for failure to consolidate school administrations as required by a state law passed in 2007.
“In order to meet [the] timeline and be operational by July 1, there are a number of significant things that have to be accomplished,” McLaughlin said Wednesday.
“The big thing is the time frame. Once you have [education] commissioner approval, the question about whether to approve the AOS [alternative organizational structure] has to be put to the voters in all of these towns, and they have to say yes. You just don’t call an election like that. It takes time,” he added.
Under the proposal, SAD 30 and Union 110 would join East Range II and Union 107 to form an AOS. Among the plan’s virtues, SAD board of directors member Scott Maxwell said, is how little the AOS varies from what’s already in place.
“An AOS is really no different than a union,” Maxwell said. “It’s the same thing. This will be the exact same setup as we have now, just on a bigger scale. That’s why I think it will work. I think there is also some savings in the offing.”
SAD 30 serves 210 students from Lee, Springfield, Webster and Winn, according to the school system website. It has a joint school board with Union 110, which serves about 50 students from Lakeville and the plantations of Carroll, Drew, Macwahoc and Reed.
East Range serves Codyville and Topsville. Union 107 serves Cooper, Grand Lake Stream Plantation, Meddybemps, Princeton, Talmadge and Waite.
If the state agrees to forming the AOS and voters in those towns approve of EMASS in the June 8 referendum, school and municipal officials will have to scramble to make the July 1 deadline, McLaughlin said.
Among the important dates if approval comes:
ä An initial AOS board meeting on June 14 to elect a superintendent and discuss a 2010-11 AOS budget.
ä Another AOS board meeting for EMASS on June 22. No site has been selected for either meeting, McLaughlin said.
ä Municipal budget passage in all of the towns in the AOS on June 30, the last day of the 2009-10 fiscal year.
“If any one of those timelines or hurdles aren’t overcome, you don’t make it,” McLaughlin said.
If EMASS is formed, it will consist of about 950 students, he said.
“That will be the umbrella of the total school system, but each of the individual units in the oversight system would still retain their own identity,” McLaughlin said.