Yarmouth, SAD 51 discuss regionalization

By Linda Maule
YARMOUTH ­ The Yarmouth School Department and School Administrative District 51 could combine in the future, Superintendent Kenneth Murphy said Monday.

"It's a possibility," Murphy said, adding that the school districts are studying the idea of having "one big district."

"We want to have a third party take a look and determine ... the advantages and disadvantages," he said, noting that the towns of Yarmouth and Cumberland have already combined a number of services, including police dispatch, assessing and code enforcement.

"The governor's been pushing (school regionalization) for a couple of years," Murphy said.

Murphy, SAD 51 Superintendent Robert Hasson and board members from both school districts met in mid-November to discuss ways the two towns could "regionalize and collaborate," Murphy said at the School Committee meeting Dec. 8.

SAD 51 would be interested in sending about 200 students to Yarmouth High School, since Greely High School was built for 500 students and it now numbers more than 700, he said.

"We could take 20 or 30," Murphy said last week, but not 200.

In the meantime, Yarmouth has also been discussing taking tuition students from Chebeague Island if that community secedes from Cumberland. Murphy and the Finance Committee met Tuesday with representatives from Chebeague Island and Robert Lyman, who has been hired to represent island residents as they make new plans for educating their children. Lyman is former superintendent of schools in Freeport.

At that meeting, Murphy said Chebeague Island spokeswomen Carol White and Beth Dyer said they want to know if children in grades six to 12 can go to Yarmouth if the islanders can't work out an agreement with SAD 51 to send their secondary students there.

Murphy said Chebeague Island residents said they would want to phase that in by sending one grade each year beginning with the sixth grade until all grades are enrolled in Yarmouth.

SAD 51 has indicated that it may continue to allow the students that are already attending Greely Middle School and Greely High School to continue at those schools if Chebeague Island secedes from Cumberland.

"It would be a gradual phase-in," Murphy said. "For us it is not a big issue."

Murphy said the matter will be taken to the full board at its next meeting.

"It's in the exploratory stage," Murphy said.

Chebeague residents voted in favor of secession in November and are now negotiating with Cumberland. Whether they reach an agreement or not, secession must ultimately be approved by the Legislature.

Yarmouth currently charges its six tuition students around $9,400, and the students provide their own transportation. Busing from the island's satellite parking lot could be an issue if Chebeague Island students attend Yarmouth High School.

Some schools take tuition for the increased revenue it provides, especially at the high school level. "Usually ... in the high school you don't need to necessarily add a teacher," Murphy said. If you added 20 students to an elementary grade, he said, it would probably require hiring a teacher.

Enrollment in Yarmouth had been declining for seven or eight years, but this year's enrollment, Murphy said, was 40 more students than projected. For this year and last year the enrollment at the high school has been at 488. Also, enrollment has been up in the third, fifth and seventh grades.

In other action last week, the School Committee approved spending $25,000 from the capital reserve fund to correct and improve ventilation problems in the chemistry lab and six science classrooms. The funds will come from capital reserves.

The committee also voted to establish a $30,000 technology reserve fund with interest earned on bond money set aside for school renovation programs. Another $80,000 in interest will go towards the town's new software program, which will be used both by Town Hall and the School Department.

Linda Maule can be reached

at 781-3661 ext. 108

or lmaule@theforecaster.net.
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