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School chief: 'Everything on the table' in SAD 51 budget, including jobs, buildings

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School chief: 'Everything on the table' in SAD 51 budget, including jobs, buildings

CUMBERLAND — School Administrative District 51 Superintendent of Schools Robert Hasson says "every position is being reviewed" as he works on a no-growth budget for fiscal 2011.

The fiscal 2010 operating budget is $28 million, which was unchanged from fiscal 2009.

While there was some concern in the community about a school resource officer position being cut, Hasson last week said there are currently no plans to eliminate the job.

“We’ve found it to be a very valuable position,” Hasson said, adding that John Dalbec has undergone significant training for the role.

The Cumberland-North Yarmouth district will hold a public input session for next year’s budget on Thursday, Feb. 25. It will begin at 7 p.m. at Greely High School.

Meanwhile, SAD 51’s Sustainability Task Force continues to develop a set of recommendations for the School Board meant to optimize the relationship between district costs and assets, as well as student achievement. It reviews information such as enrollment and demographic data, school building uses and grade configurations.

The task force plans to hold a workshop with the School Board on its recommendations in mid-March; public input will be allowed. Any recommendations accepted by the board would be developed next year and not take effect until the 2011-2012 school year, Hasson said.

Many options are being discussed, he said. There has been talk of moving grades around in the district’s schools, and of closing or mothballing North Yarmouth Memorial School or building a new one.

Still, Hasson pointed out, nothing has been decided. For instance, SAD 51 is submitting an application for the next round of state funding to support construction of a new North Yarmouth school or renovation of the current building.

“Everything’s being discussed,” Hasson noted. “Everything is on the table.”

He said the task force has looked at which buildings are in best shape, and which ones have been “hardened” to industrial grade.

“There are people who are anxious about schools closing, because the budget is so challenging,” Hasson said. “… That type of change, you really need to do it intentionally, you need to do it with a lot of public input.”

He noted that if the district sees a drop in enrollment from 2,200 to 1,800 or 1,900 across 10 years, “do you need to use all five schools, or is there a more efficient way – different grade configuration, different (student) loads in the schools – to pull that off? Saving some of the operating costs by not using all the schools that you have?”

District enrollment was about 2,300 five years ago and has dropped to about 2,200. Two studies have determined that the number could drop to about 1,800 or 1,900 in eight years.

Still, Scott Poulin, the district’s finance director, said, “we’ve had people talk about, ‘why would you give up an asset in case enrollment increases again?’”

In 1993 enrollment was nearly 1,700; by then the district had returned the Drowne Road School to the town of Cumberland. Enrollment then increased, and the school district now leases the building from the town and will resume full ownership in 2014.

While most of the district’s schools have been upgraded, North Yarmouth Memorial School has not, Hasson said, “and that’s why there has been some talk there.”

“It’s a building that needs some repair and some maintenance,” he continued. “As part of the work of the Sustainability Task Force, they’re looking at what kind of shape (the building) is in, (and) our enrollments. It’s the only school in North Yarmouth, so people are sensitive to that.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.