Trends point to school’s demise

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KINGFIELD – If trends continue the way they have been, SAD 58 might have to close Mt. Abram High School and bus its students to another district, Superintendent Quenten Clark told selectmen Monday night.

From fifth grade on down there are significantly fewer kids in the district than there have been in previous years, and once fifth-graders are seniors, Mount Abram is going to be a very different place, he said. Class sizes have been decreasing so much in recent years, Clark added, that there is empty space in some of the elementary schools.

“At some point, (affording a high school) may not be affordable” for SAD 58, Clark said. But “this is all five to 10 years down the road,” he added.

Clark discussed the issue with selectmen Monday night during a routine meeting to review the proposed 2006-2007.

“The budget is up,” Clark said, and “it is up tremendously.”

With increasing heating oil and diesel fuel bills to pay and a bill that just passed in the state Legislature requiring schools to pay a minimum salary of $27,000 this coming year and $30,000 the next, “honestly, (school board members) don’t know quite what they’re going to do.”

A benefit of the salary minimum is that SAD 58 will be able to compete with richer districts for bright new teachers, Clark said.

Under the proposed budget, Kingfield’s share will increase by about $2,000 per month, according to First Selectman John Dill. The total budget is up about 5.4 percent, and is vastly above what the state model says it should be, Clark said.

SAD 58 will never meet the model figures, he says, not unless all four of the area’s elementary schools are consolidated into one. And Clark said that if he suggests closing down the elementary schools and busing kindergartners 40 miles from town to town for school, “I’d be run out of town.”

“I think these towns want their elementary schools and will pay for their elementary schools,” Clark said.

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