May 21, 2018
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RSU 20 board to vote on school closure

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

FRANKFORT, Maine — The Regional School District 20 board of directors may decide next week to close Frankfort Elementary School — now attended by 97 students — in order to cut costs for the district.

“It’s a very difficult and emotional move,” RSU 20 Superintendent Bruce Mailloux said Friday afternoon. “Nobody wants to lose their school. Everybody understands that. It’s a hard decision for the board to make.”

Tuesday evening’s board meeting originally was going to be held in the central office but has been moved to the band room at Belfast Area High School in anticipation of higher-than-usual turnout, Mailloux said.

At the meeting, he will present a rationale for closing the Frankfort school. There also will be the opportunity for public comment.

The nine-town school district is in a tough financial position, he said, as are many other districts in the state. It’s facing an estimated minimum revenue loss next year of roughly $1.9 million. That number includes a $900,000 decrease in state and federal funds for special education, a $42,000 decrease in E-Rate funds and a nearly $1 million decrease in federal stimulus funds.

“That’s before we talk about any increases in operational costs,” Mailloux said. “All those things have yet to be determined. It’s going to be a very difficult year. The finance committee’s at the point where it’s obvious we’re not going to get even close to that by cutting a teacher here and there, a program here and there.”

The district’s finance committee made the recommendation to close the Frankfort Elementary School, where 14 people now work.

If the board of directors decides to go through with the school closure, some but not all of those people will lose their jobs, he said.

“It is tough times,” Mailloux said. “Everybody wants a great education. Nobody wants a tax increase. Nobody wants to lose their local school.”

The board has been discussing closing a school for a long time, he said. About a year ago, the board held a budget workshop at which they discussed closing one of the district’s elementary schools. At that time, the Stockton Springs Elementary School was recommended for closure by Mailloux, and a board member suggested the district consider closing both Frankfort Elementary School and the Kermit Nickerson Elementary School in Swanville.

The superintendent said that he was not prepared to discuss where the Frankfort students will go if their elementary school is closed. That will be part of the Tuesday meeting, he said.

“Schools are the center of the town, but times are changing,” Mailloux said. “It’s increasingly not a case of not wanting to pay taxes. It’s a case of people not having the ability to pay taxes.”

The RSU 20 board of directors meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the Belfast Area High School band room.

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