JAY — Regional School Unit 73 will ask state officials for a waiver of the student-to-teacher ratio for kindergarten classes for the rest of the school year.

Addressing the board of directors Thursday evening, interim Superintendent Bob Webster said five of seven kindergarten classes at Spruce Mountain Primary School in Livermore have more than 20 students. Four have 21 students; one has 22.

Primary School Principal Kevin Harrington said the Maine Department of Education requires a student-to-teacher ratio of 20-to-1 for kindergarten classes. For grades one to eight, it’s 25-to-1 and for grades nine to 12 it’s 30-to-1.

“The district is allowed 45 days to work through those issues,” Webster told directors. “I am sending a letter to the commissioner of education requesting a waiver for the rest of the school year. That will give us time to brainstorm.”

The district added a kindergarten teacher in the fall.

As of March 1, there were 133 kindergartners, nine more than at the beginning of the school year.

The Primary School houses kindergarten and first and second grades.

 

Regional School Unit 73 directors vote Thursday night at Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay to seek bids for the district audit. From left are Shannon McDaniel, Joel Pike, Ann Schwab, Dale LeBlanc, Steve Langlin and Orion Schwab. (Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden)

In a discussion of the 2019-20 budget, Director Tammy Frost said she wanted to make sure there were enough teachers next year.

Harrington said 121 second-graders — a large number — will move to the third grade at Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay next year. The school houses grades 3 to 5.

“The hope has been to maintain the staff we have and move staff within the building,” Harrington said.

Spruce Mountain Middle School Principal Scott Albert said another teacher would be needed for the Elementary School.

Director Shari Ouellette asked if money for a teacher could be added to the budget in case it’s needed.

Albert asked if it was better to add that money to the contingency line of the budget.

“If the teacher isn’t needed, the money could be used elsewhere,” he said.

“Add a third grade teacher,” Director Ann Schwab said. “Add one in contingency. If taxes increase a bit, that’s the cost of educating your kids.”

The 2019-20 budget proposal stands at $19.33 million, which is $515,274 more than this year’s.

Webster said debt service is $170,405 less than the anticipated $800,000 because the district refinanced its loan with energy conservation company Siemens.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “There is no change in the interest rates and no penalty for changing the loan.”

Webster also provided an information sheet showing that total assessments to the district towns of Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls from 2016 to 2020 were $8.3 million less than what they would have been if the district hadn’t used surplus money.

He also provided a chart showing RSU 73’s per-pupil cost is $12,500, $1,363 less than the state average.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at Spruce Mountain High School to vote on a draft budget. It will be presented to the public at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Middle School.

District voters will decide on the spending plan April 23.

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