LEWISTON — Because student enrollment is increasing and more students require special education services, Lewiston schools need to hire 57 more people, the City Council was told Tuesday.

The school budget as recommended by the School Committee is $69 million, or 6.8 percent more than the current budget. If passed, it would raise property taxes by about $48 a year on a home valued at $150,000.

Part of the budget includes $25,000 to staff all elementary school libraries, and $167,000 in case there’s another surge in the number of students.

Last year, Lewiston was expecting 100 new students as projected by a demographic study. The study was wrong; 250 new students arrived.

If Lewiston “only” receives another 100 students as projected this fall, the $167,000 would not be spent and carried over to the next year, Committee Chairwoman Linda Scott told councilors.

Overall, Scott said a growing enrollment is good for Lewiston’s future.

It’s not just the schools that will be affected by more families moving to Lewiston. More families mean a thriving city, more consumers using local businesses.

“I don’t see this as adding extra burden on our community. I see it as adding value to our community because it’s growing. I think this is a good thing,” she said.

Growing schools will generate more state money for education.

Superintendent Bill Webster expects more than $2.5 million more next year and the year after, but between now and then the city has to cover costs.

Overall, the bulk of the proposed new positions are teachers and ed techs. There are also two new programs.

One new position will allow a plumbing program at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

A new program will start a “Star Academy” to help eighth-graders who are behind get extra help so they graduate from high school on time.

Of the proposed 57 positions, eight are for regular classrooms, four are for English Language Learner, and a whopping 45 are for special education.

City Councilor Jim Lysen questioned the special ed numbers. “This isn’t the schools that I grew up with,” he said. When looking at the number of positions added for a certain segment, it seems out of whack, he said. “Those are things that are hard for me to absorb.”

Webster said the proposed budget for 2016-17 would create two special ed autism classrooms for 16 students with extreme needs.

“Half of those new positions would be just in those two classrooms,” he said. Staffing in those two classes would require eight to 10 people each. In some cases one student would require one ed tech.

Teaching the extreme high-needs special ed students can cost $50,000 per student, Webster said. When those families show up, the city has no choice but to provide services. Sending them out of district would cost more, $80,000 per student, he said.

Talking about the general special ed population, Webster said he’s seeing an alarming change in kindergarten students. Of the incoming 471 kindergarten students, about 90, or 20 percent, have already been identified by the state as needing special ed services.

“Today’s students are different,” Webster said. “I think they’re different than just five years ago. The needs of students coming to our door are just unbelievable.”

Webster said he doesn’t know if it’s a reflection of parenting or if youths are spending too much time in front of the television. “I’m not a psychologist. But I can say we have 4- and 5-year-olds arriving at school” who don’t know how to act with others.

Other changes include more students from immigrant families learning to speak English.

While nationally Maine is the least diversified state, Lewiston has become more diversified. This year for the first time one out of every four students in Lewiston is an English Language Learner. Most are from Somali families, but they also come from Angola, Congo, Djibouti and Iraq.

“ELL hardly existed 12 years ago,” Webster said.

And for all students, learning has changed. It has become more individualized, Webster said.

The council is scheduled to vote on the school budget April 28. It will be sent to voters May 10.

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