OXFORD — A plan to consolidate administration and classes in elementary schools  in the Oxford Hills School District must be approved this year to bridge a $2.2 million budget gap in the $34.2 million budget for 2010-2011, Superintendent Mark Eastman said this week.

Eastman told the Board of Directors at its meeting Monday night that if the plan is delayed by even one year, it will mean less efficient delivery of courses such as art, music and physical education, additional facility costs, less efficient administrative support and larger class sizes.

Additionally, he said delaying the plan will only postpone the inevitable and significantly increase the fiscal year 2011-2012 funding gap, which is estimated at $2.2 million.

Officials say the plan is part of a two-tier approach to the budget crisis that combines short-term strategies, such as putting off some maintenance, and long-term strategies, such as consolidating administration and classes in elementary schools. The plan, which has been presented to residents in all eight district towns, will maintain eight elementary schools, but reduce the number of elementary principals from eight to 5.5.

For example, Rowe Elementary School in Norway would retain a principal and assistant principal and take Waterford’s fifth and sixth grade students, while Waterford and Harrison schools would share a principal.

The elementary consolidation plan would, in part, help equalize class size and discontinue the use of the Legion Memorial Elementary School in West Paris and portable classrooms at Otisfield Community School. It will also maintain a school in each community along with art, music and physical education in all grades, officials said.

The plan also allows for some freshmen teams to continue and maintains art, music and physical education, all of which were slated to be eliminated to meet the budget gap.

If the plan is implemented, officials say it would save $210,000 in administration, $386,000 in instruction and $12,000 in facilities, for a total of $508,000.

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