Brunswick parents hope to keep Jordan Acres school open

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BRUNSWICK — Residents are mounting a campaign to avoid the temporary closing of Jordan Acres Elmentary School.

More than 75 people have joined a Facebook group called “Save Jordan Acres Elementary.”

The group was created over the weekend by Jonathan Crimmins, a parent of a Jordan Acres first-grader, who said he was frustrated by Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski’s proposal to close the school next year and shift its students to Coffin and Harriet Beecher Stowe elementary schools.

“Jordan Acres was the place we wanted to send our kids,” said Crimmins, who also attended the school as a child. He said he believes there are better ways to save money than by closing the school, which he called “consistently one of the better schools in Brunswick.”

Other residents seem to agree.

“I will do what I can to save this school and these teachers jobs!!!” Sheri Howe posted on the group’s Facebook page. “This is THE best elementary school in Brunswick – and they want to close it!? Doesnt make any sense!”

After learning of the school closure proposal at last week’s budget workshop, Crimmins said it was “evident that this proposal has already essentially been voted upon.”

“Even though it was a proposal, several of the board members had known about this prior, and it had been a given that this would happen,” he said. He said he wished Jordan Acres parents had been informed of the proposal before the School Board meeting.

When asked how he would propose coming up with the more than $1 million in savings that would result from closing the school for a year, Crimmins didn’t have any specific ideas, although he is soliciting them on Facebook. In the meantime, he encouraged the board to “take a step back and see if there are other options.”

But Perzanoski said he has pored over the budget, and closing Jordan Acres temporarily is one of the only ways to save that much money without laying off even more teachers and increasing class sizes.

“If we don’t close that school I’ve got to cut another 32 positions,” the school chief said. “With this scenario, the (School) Department gets to maintain all of its programming.

Nearly 80 percent of savings from closing Jordan Acres would come from eliminating 15 jobs, including seven teachers and an administrator, Perzanoski said. The rest would come from reduced building maintenance and operating costs.

As part of the closure, Perzanoski said he would like to request $200,000 from the town’s capital improvement plan to study how much it would cost to renovate the school.

He cited a cracked roof beam that forced the school to close over the winter as evidence that Jordan Acres will need serious renovations in the near future.

Given that the town’s elementary school population is small enough to fit in two schools, Perzanoski said it is a good time to renovate Jordan Acres.

Many School Board members expressed support for the plan at the budget workshop.

“We really need to take advantage of the fact that we can do this, that we can take JA offline,” Janet Connors said, noting that other towns have struggled to find space for their students while closing a school for renovations.

Board Chairwoman and Jordan Acres parent Corrine Perreault agreed.

“I think the best way to show respect for JA is to take the time and make the school the best it should be,” she said.

But some board members expressed concern that if the town’s elementary school population increases while the school is still closed, Brunswick could run out of space, especially at the Harriet Beecher Stowe school, which was designed for 600 students but will hold 636 if Jordan Acres is taken off-line.

“The plan as we have it now, we don’t have that much wiggle room,” said board member Matt Corey.

“I’m worried that in three to four years we’ll get to a capacity where we’ll have to use all three schools.”

Perzanoski would like to see Coffin Elementary and the Junior High School renovated as well, and the town could continue to shuffle students and teachers between the buildings until those renovations were complete.

He said that Harriet Beecher Stowe has room for another 150 students before a third school would become necessary.

Matt Corey, also a Jordan Acres parent, said the reaction was largely positive from parents who spoke with him.

“For the most part, every parent I spoke with or who approached me said, ‘Wow this is really surprising, but it’s a good idea considering the situation we’re in.'”

The School Board will hold a public hearing on the budget on Wednesday, April 27, at 6 p.m.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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