OXFORD – SAD 17 Superintendent Mark Eastman said Tuesday that he hopes to appoint a committee soon to look at new ways to provide quality education as the eight-town district’s financial resources begin to dwindle.

“Funding issues is one of the key things that has forced the conversation,” he said. The superintendent has joined others who are looking at alternative ways to provide quality education as state aid diminishes and the economy is unable to support the shift from state to local resources to maintain services.

Eastman suggested to SAD 17 directors that the committee of board members, staff, parents and others be established to review alternate school calendars, virtual educational experiences, kindergarten through grade six clusters and partnerships with other school systems for delivery of services.

“These are long-term things we will be exploring,” said Eastman a day after the Educational and Cultural Affairs Committee heard testimony about a proposal by Maine Rep. Sawin Millett, R-Waterford, to allow schools to adopt alternative calendars as a way of reducing escalating heating oil, electrical and diesel costs. The proposal would allow a school board to reduce the number of school days from five to four per week as long as equivalent instruction is provided.

“We will be looking at all of those things,” Eastman said.

Eastman said another issue to be decided is how to address discrepancies in class size without closing community schools. He suggested the committee talk about enrolling students in elementary schools based on the enrollment figure and not necessarily where a student lives. Under certain conditions, the district now allows parents to enroll their children at elementary schools other than the town where they reside as long as the class size is educationally adequate.

“I see it as a whole range of topics, thinking well beyond the short-term to look at what our options are,” Eastman said.

The committee will only make recommendations. Directors will review recommendation and vote to implement any of them.

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