Kingfield community meeting on school options set for Monday

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KINGFIELD — A community meeting to discuss options related to the realignment of SAD 58 students is planned for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 22, at the Kingfield Elementary School.

A group of concerned citizens have invited Superintendent Quenten Clark and members of the SAD 58 School Board to attend and discuss proposed options and the reasons why the proposals are being discussed.

Although the SAD 58 School Board has addressed the issue at several meetings without arriving at a decision, “we thought it important for all residents to have an opportunity to get the information first hand,” Jack McKee said.

One option proposed is to move all SAD 58 seventh- and eighth-grade students to the Kingfield Elementary School, all third-through-fifth-graders to Phillips, and all kindergarten-through-grade-two students to Strong.

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Other options, including a “do nothing” option, are to multi-grade all schools, move grades seven and eight to Mt. Abram High School and organize remaining grades/schools, move seventh- and eighth-graders to Kingfield Elementary School, leaving kindergarten-through-grade-six children where they are.

A listing of eight potential options has been shared with school board members, who at a recent meeting, agreed something needs to be changed and it must happen in the near future.

A steady decline in student population in the district and the state’s budget crisis has resulted in a significant decline in state aid creating an impact on SAD 58.

March enrollment in the district was at 840 students, down from 887 last year. The high school numbers have dropped from 302 last year to 271 now, causing Clark to recently tell board members that the district cannot sustain the schools it has with the declining population.

Add to the enrollment issue, SAD 58 is facing a $420,000 cut in state subsidy this year, a 6 percent decrease. The Maine Department of Education has warned next year’s school subsidy will be worse with the loss of federal stimulus funds while within the district, valuation changes and declining enrollments will continue to decrease state subsidies in following years.

Another issue is an aging high school. At 40-years old, it needs upgrades costing up to $10 million while restructuring would cost a tenth of that amount, Clark recently told the board.

High school students could pay tuition to other districts at a cost of $10,000 each. At present, the district is spending $10 million to educate 800 students, he told them.

The March 22 meeting will allow for parents to voice concerns and acquire more detailed information.

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