SAD 75 board to get updated proposal for shutting Harpswell school

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TOPSHAM — School Administrative District 75 Superintendent Mike Wilhelm plans to bring a completed application to close West Harpswell School to the School Board on Oct. 14.

If the board approves the application, SAD 75 will submit it to the state Department of Education the following day, with a copy to go to Harpswell.

The application process includes a fiscal 2010 audit to determine the cost to keep the school open. Last year, the school district determined the cost for one year, based on fiscal 2009 numbers, was $219,000. Harpswell had to pay that amount in March after its citizens voted 906-827 against closing the school.

The School Board voted in June for the second consecutive year to close the school, this time by a margin of 12-2. Harpswell will in turn vote a second time on the matter. If residents vote to keep the school open for another year, the town will again have to repay the cost savings determined by the district‘s audit.

Wilhelm has said that closing the school and moving its students to the larger Harpswell Islands School will increase capacity for students at a time of scarce resources. Declining enrollment at West Harpswell School has also been a trigger for closure; Wilhelm said last week that the October 2009 count of 72 has dwindled to 64 this month.

Harpswell has 10 days from receipt of the SAD 75 cost statement to appeal the district’s calculation. The town has formed a team that includes the town administrator, deputy town administrator, town treasurer and two members of the Budget Committee to examine the calculation and recommend to the Board of Selectmen whether any action is necessary prior to the appeal deadline.

“There are other elements of (SAD 75’s) closure report,” Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said last week. “Things like enrollment figures, and … how the educational curriculum is going to be handled. We’re not going to be reviewing those aspects, but we are going to look at the cost calculation – how it was derived, the components of it – and then report back to the selectmen.”

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

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.