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MSAD 58 to create middle school

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STRONG — Following multiple public meetings and discussions, the MSAD 58 school board voted on Thursday, January 20, on the first step in the strategic planning process. 

Due to increased property valuations and decreased student population, the district received less state funding this year. The district used COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government to fill several staffing positions this year. Looking ahead to the next year, the district faced nearly one million dollars that would either need to come from local taxpayers, or be cut out of the budget entirely. 

Through a series of public meetings, with input and feedback from school employees, administrators, parents, students, and community members, five scenarios were presented to the board in a special board meeting on Tuesday, January 18, and voted on during the regular monthly board meeting on Thursday. 

Option A was to close Mount Abram High School and tuition students to other districts for high school education. This proposal was estimated to save between $300,000 and $500,000. Because the high school is located in an unorganized territory, there is no clear direction on how to proceed with closing, if the board voted to take this option.

Option B was to close one of the community schools: Kingfield, Strong, or Phillips. Estimated cost savings for this scenario averaged $1.7 million, with a breakdown for each of the schools. If the board voted to move forward with closing one of these schools, it would go to the taxpayers in that community for a final vote. 

Option C, to reconfigure the schools within the district by combining and relocating grades, would save about $544,000.

Option D, to reconfigure and combine grade levels within the elementary schools and to move seventh and eighth grade students to Mount Abram High School, was estimated to save about $589,000. 

Option E, moving all middle school students (grades five through eight) to Strong Elementary School and dividing the Strong elementary students (PreK through fourth grade) between Kingfield and Phillips Elementary schools, was estimated to save $646,000. 

The motion was made by board member Sue Pratt to follow option E: to reconfigure the district and make Strong Elementary School into the middle school, redistribute PreK-fourth grades to KES and PES, and leave the high school as it stands currently. 

The motion was seconded by Julie Talmage, and the vote was unanimous. 

In a letter to the community regarding the decision, Superintendent Sanders said, “It is unfortunate that maintaining community schools has become such a financial struggle. That being said I applaud the School Board for their vision and unanimous vote. I believe that of all the possible options the School Board had to entertain this one truly is the one that is in the best educational interests of our students. It will allow for greater consistency in instruction and open doors for additional educational opportunities, while maintaining locally controlled PK-12 instruction for the students of our communities.”

These changes will take effect for the 2022-2023 school year. 

This is the first step of the strategic planning process, to address the immediate budget crisis. With the student population expected to continue the decline seen in recent years, additional strategic planning will be needed to determine the district’s future. 

 

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