LEEDS — Leeds Central School parents unhappy with a proposal to send fifth- and sixth-graders to school in Turner let Superintendent Darlene Burdin know it Wednesday night.

Saying “this is craziness,” “way too fast,” “this doesn’t make any sense,” and “I’m terrified,” parents asked Burdin, who is retiring, to shelve her proposal.

Burdin countered, “This isn’t a done deal,” and it will be up to the Regional School Unit 52 Board of Directors to decide whether the cost-saving proposal stays or goes.

In her budget proposal for 2011-12, Burdin has recommended redistricting in Greene, Leeds and Turner.

The plan would bus fifth- and sixth-graders from Leeds and Greene to a middle school in Turner, next to an existing middle school housing seventh- and eighth-graders. That would create a four-year middle school curriculum that would better prepare students, Burdin said.

Meanwhile, each of the three towns would have its own prekindergarten through grade 4 school.

The restructuring would save $416,338 from reduced staff. Burdin did not answer questions about how many jobs would disappear.

Like many school districts, RSU 52 is facing a big deficit. Without change, the deficit would be $960,000 in a $22.37 million budget.

The biggest reason for change is to improve student performance, she said. Students show up at the middle school at widely different levels in math and reading. Creating a four-year middle school would allow teachers to work together and receive more professional development, which would improve student learning, Burdin said.

Burdin said fifth- and sixth-graders would ride on the same buses as high school students, and they would go to school at the same time as high schoolers. For some, bus rides would be an hour or more.

The change would mean Leeds Central School would have 150 remaining students.

Parents reacted with two big concerns: Would Leeds go the way of Wales Central School, which is closing because of a small student population?

And parents objected to fifth- and sixth-graders taking long bus rides with high school students.

A 10-year old and a 15-year old “are worlds apart,” Steve Gagne said. “It terrifies me as a parent to have my 11-year-old son be on the bus with kids so much older than him.”

Rick Peabody predicted moving Leeds students to Turner would mean parent involvement would decrease.

He complained that the proposal was “getting rushed through” and didn’t make sense. “The math you came up with, I went to Leavitt High School and the math doesn’t compute. I’d love to see this in writing.”

Peabody said if it’s going to cost him $94 for every $100,000 of property value he owns to keep his children in Leeds, “I’ll pay it,” he said to applause.

“There’s a lot of things in the district that could be cut that are frivolous rather than disrupting K-6 kids,” he said.

Similar meetings in Greene and Turner show the three towns “are not happy with this plan,” Peabody said.

Nat Bell said extracurricular activity would go down because “people aren’t going to have time to drive their fifth-grader to Turner to play basketball.” Test results would not improve by moving students to Turner, Bell said.

And “what are we going to do with this building space with nobody here?” he asked.

Michael Webber said the proposal is moving too fast. “If nothing else, you’ve heard the fear this is causing. It can’t succeed with this amount of fear.”

Teachers, not administrators, are the ones who have the greatest impact on students, he said.

“But (teachers) haven’t even been asked to participate,” Webber said. “They’re as scared as we are. … There are so many unknowns. It’s craziness that we’re gong to bring this to a board and have a board decide based on numbers.”

The board is scheduled to take up the plan on Wednesday in Leeds.

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