SAD 58 OKs funds to heat with corn


SALEM – SAD 58 made its first move toward solid fuels Thursday night.

The school board voted to allow Superintendent Quenten Clark to use $15,000 to purchase a corn stove, 618 bushels of corn, and a 22-ton silo to install at the district bus garage in Salem.

Clark expects that the actual cost will be less than that but is using conservative figures, such as $3 per bushel of corn while it is closer to $2.40 right now, he said. Even at the $3 estimate, Clark says a bushel of corn would be equal to 88 cents for one gallon of oil in terms of energy production. He also calculates that the system will pay for itself within 4.7 years if not sooner and save $3,186 annually in fuel costs.

Clark also hopes to see SAD 58 heat its schools with wood chips soon. He plans to lobby the Legislature to subsidize schools that use solid fuels as other states, including Vermont, have done.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Clark said.

Depending on economics and the Legislature, Mt. Abram could become the first school in the district heated by wood chips by the 2007-08 school year.

As school budgets tighten around the country, money-saving ideas are a necessity. For the upcoming school year, SAD 58 is looking at cutting 2 teaching positions – one at Kingfield, one at Strong and a half teacher in the physical education department at Mt. Abram. No one will lose their job because of the cuts. At Strong a teacher who will retire will not be replaced, and a Kingfield teacher will be transferred to the high school to fill a resignation.

“I think the elementary schools will continue to lose teachers over the next couple of years,” Clark said.

Another pending issue is that Kingfield is expected to have only 10 incoming kindergartners (five from Freeman, five from Kingfield), while 28 will move on to the high school. Based on screenings, the Strong kindergarten is expecting 22 students, four of which will come from Salem and Freeman. Unless the numbers change, Clark said the four township children would have to go to Kingfield if they want to stay in the district. He added that some of those children have siblings already in the Strong school.

“The only other options would be to move the entire Kingfield kindergarten to Strong, or hire more people in Strong,” Clark said, adding that the district tries to keep 18 students or less in any one kindergarten class. The only exception is Phillips, which is expecting 20 kindergartners but has extra staff in grades K-2 by using grant money that supports a Title I teacher, reading specialist and interventionist in addition to the classroom teachers.

Board member Judy Dill, a former Strong kindergarten teacher, said those numbers will likely go up next fall.