There’s been quite a bit of talk on this blog and elsewhere about how to lower the school budget for next year. One option that consistently comes up is to save money by closing one of the schools — the most often mentioned being Neary — and distributing students among the remaining three schools.
Back in May, the school committee formed a fact-finding committee to look into the idea. In December they presented some very early findings.
You can have a look at the full presentation (.pdf) for yourself, but here’s a summary of the salient points:
- Trottier is limited by septic and wetlands issues. Enrollment projections suggest the earliest Trottier would be able to accommodate an additional grade level would be 2014-2015.
- Woodward is limited by the number of classrooms and may not be able to accept an additional grade level.
- There is space at Finn, but it would likely mean moving preschool somewhere else.
- Closing Neary would save about $175K annually in maintenance fees, but there would not be a significant savings in staff reductions since most of the staff would move to other schools along with the students.
- There’s more research to be done.
At the Board of Selectmen budget summit earlier this month, Superintendent Charles Gobron said he does not consider closing Neary a viable option for the 2011-2012 school year. “I’m opposed to doing anything this year,” he said. “I want to make sure any decision we make is thoughtful and in the best interest of the district.”
Advisory Committee member Al Hamilton told selectmen the enrollment numbers he’s seen suggest the school population peaked in 2004 and will continue to decline over the next decade. “We need to seriously evaluate whether we need four schools,” he said. “This question isn’t going to go away.”