HOULTON, Maine — Changes are underway for students in Regional School Unit 29 following the district’s decision to close the Wellington School in Monticello.
Sixth-graders who would have spent their year at the Southside School in Houlton will attend Houlton Junior Senior High School on Bird Street because of an unexpected influx of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students who will be attending Houlton Elementary School. Third-graders also will be moving from the Houlton Elementary School to Houlton Southside School.
The decision was made late last month during a school board meeting as a result of the vote not to pass $12.9 million budget for the district.
RSU 29 is made up of the four communities of Houlton, Littleton, Hammond and Monticello. This school year, the district had two elementary schools, Houlton Elementary School and Wellington School in Monticello, as well as Southside School in Houlton, which serves as a middle school. Houlton High School is the district’s only high school.
This spring, the decision was made to close Wellington because of declining enrollment, the age of the building and escalating costs, a move expected to save the district approximately $109,000. The Monticello school educates 66 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade.
The district originally drafted a plan to educate those students at Houlton Elementary School and shift the library and computer labs from the Houlton school to portable classrooms in order to make more room for the larger student population. That would have eliminated the need for students to be taught in portable classrooms. During a school board meeting in June, however, Superintendent Mike Hammer proposed a plan to move the sixth- and third-graders around. The superintendent said there was enough room at the school and a plan would be put in place to keep the students separate from the high schoolers.
It was originally rejected, 6-5, during a school board vote on June 10. The plan was adopted on June 23, however, as part of an effort to reduce the 2014-15 budget by approximately $150,000.
Eliminating the plan to lease modular classrooms will save approximately $48,312, according to Hammer.
There will be an open house for incoming sixth- and seventh-graders and their parents on July 14 at 5 p.m. in the the Houlton High School Auditorium.
A public referendum on the budget will be held Tuesday, July 15.
Correction: The public referendum will be held Tuesday, July 15, not July 14 as previously stated.