PORTLAND – The city’s public schools will have to absorb as many as 90 additional students after Cathedral School closes in June, and school officials are taking steps to make that transition as seamless as possible.

The infusion of former Catholic school students promises to challenge the proposed $91.6 million public school budget for 2011-12, which anticipates having about 130 fewer students in the coming school year, mostly at the high school level.

“The only solution we have is to identify resources in the budget … to respond to whatever in-migration of students that we get,” said Superintendent Jim Morse.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced two weeks ago that it will close Cathedral School, which serves students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. The 147-year-old school at Congress and Franklin streets is $115,000 over budget this year, and that figure would more than double next year if the school remained open, diocesan officials said.

The closing means public school officials may face an even larger influx of late registrations in August and September. That’s when Maine’s largest school district — which has 7,066 students this year — typically takes in a few dozen immigrant students and transfers from other districts.

“We always anticipate making these sorts of adjustments,” Morse said. “The school board will expect me to figure out a solution and I will do my best.”

Some of Cathedral School’s 131 students may transfer to St. Brigid School in Portland or Holy Cross School in South Portland, said Morse, who attended Cathedral School as a child.

Morse said 115 Cathedral students live in Portland, according to the district’s records for federal Title I funding for low-income students. Twenty-four of those students are in eighth grade and destined for high school in the fall.

That leaves 91 Cathedral students who could be entering Portland elementary and middle schools in the fall, Morse said.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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