School board postpones middle school merger

By Daniel Dunkle | Apr 04, 2013

Rockland — A split Regional School Unit 13 board voted April 4 to postpone a previously proposed merger of the Thomaston and Rockland middle schools for at least one year while school leaders study the issue.

Three members of the board opposed the motion during the school board meeting at the former McLain School, but the majority voted to postpone the merger.

Facing a $1.6 million budget shortfall, top RSU 13 administrators had proposed combining the Thomaston and Rockland middle schools this coming academic year to partially fill the gap.

Superintendent Lew Collins warned the board that it would have to deal with the budget shortfall, and sell its budget to voters in the district. He said he was concerned school leaders would be back at the table in July after the school budget fails at the polls trying to figure out what to do.

Board Chairman Tess Kilgour said the merger is inevitable, but not this year. She supported postponing the merger.

She added the school system has seen a decline in the student population, but no corresponding reduction in the number of buildings. Eventually that will have to be addressed by consolidation, she said. She said she hopes the community will have faith in the school board to support tough choices it will have to make.

If the merger had been adopted, sixth- and seventh-grade students from Thomaston, Rockland and Cushing would attend the Thomaston Grammar School building, housing a total of 250 students. Cushing fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders already attend the school.

Cushing and Thomaston fifth-graders would also attend the Thomaston school, but Rockland fifth-graders would remain in Rockland.

The South School population, including Rockland fifth-graders, would have moved to the middle school building, and South School would not be used, according to the plan.

Collins said previously the district is looking to maintain programs with fixed costs increasing each year, less state revenue, and Gov. Paul LePage's proposed budget calling for districts to pay a share of teacher retirement. "It's a bill we can hardly afford."

The district budget validation referendum will be June 11.

Courier Publications News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Sonya l Myers | Apr 05, 2013 14:42

I have to ask an obvious question, is the first consolidation saving us money, as I am seeing an increase in the budget each year, not a decrease?  I know that busses are already going to Thomaston with Rockland children and some combinations could be made to argue the extra cost for that, but the costs to consolidate/move seemed to be under estimated as some builders have mentioned.  The middle school is not equipped for elementary aged children it was built for a middle school age range specific, which Rockland taxpayers built.  The TGS is not adequate for middle school children in size or any other way.  It seems maybe the thought of where we will put these consolidated children should have been thought through before it happened in the first place.  The bottom line is it isn't working but the seed was already planted, now the field is trying to get harvested.  The South School which would be closed off and kept at 50 degrees would be mold infested within a few years and not usable at a later date, we already closed two schools, one of which is being used for children again based on mold issues and air quality, hmmmm? I think children will suffer more and more based on larger classrooms, less teacher to student ratio, more stress on teachers and students with inclusive classes without the supports and staff needed to make that successful, and not to mention all the children that currently walk to school now having to be bussed, or if they miss the bus won't hve availability to come in later due to lack of transportation etc. Having the children in their home town has a larger purpose than is being realized or even discussed.  The schools that chose not to do the consolidation are not being penalized as threatened and the costs are not effectively assisting our budgets.  I can only hope that state govt and local govt starts to think of our children as little people that represent our future, not $ signs and do what is best for them



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 05, 2013 14:02

Consolidation works when there is not a huge transportation-pickup student body. The price of bussing and the cost of gas could increase the school budget in the long run. It certainly is a problem. I think smaller schools and closer to the children's homes could save money. Something to look at. Cost comparisons should give the school board choices and maybe the children closer to home.

Just a thought.

Mickey McKeever



Posted by: Edwin Ecker | Apr 05, 2013 08:03

Good move !

 



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