March 12, 2013

Windham-Raymond school switch proposed

The superintendent asks parents if they would be willing to send their kids to a less crowded school.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Windham-Raymond School District is taking a new approach to balancing enrollment at its elementary schools: Asking if families would volunteer to switch schools.

To alleviate overcrowding at Windham Primary School that is projected to be worse than ever this year, Superintendent Sandy Prince sent out a letter earlier this month asking if parents of Windham students in kindergarten through fourth grade are interested in sending their kids to Raymond Elementary instead.

And to accommodate any volunteers, Prince is proposing two new bus stops in Windham as part of a $39.8 million budget proposal he will present to the school board Wednesday. The proposed cost of transporting the volunteers is $11,000.

Last fall, the school board considered a proposal to redistrict its schools and send 70 North Windham students to Raymond Elementary, which is under capacity.

After an outcry from Windham parents, the board rejected the proposal, which would have affected students in kindergarten through third grade.

Windham Primary is currently 130 students over capacity and its enrollment is expected to grow by 20 students next year.

School officials said last fall they feared what the effect would be on Windham Primary if enrollment ended up being as high as projected. Prince thought he might have to ask for a portable classroom at Windham Primary, but he said Tuesday that's not included in his proposed budget.

Instead, Principal Kyle Rhoads said he expects to squeeze yet another class into the school, where several spaces that weren't designed for teaching have been turned into classrooms, and to slightly increase the size of classes.

Prince said kindergarten classes are projected to be 17 or 18 students in Windham and 16 students in Raymond. On average, there would be between 19 and 21 students per class through fourth grade at Windham schools, and between 15 and 22 students per class at Raymond Elementary.

Windham Primary School serves kindergarten through third grade. Windham fourth- and fifth-graders attend Manchester School. Raymond Elementary is for kindergarten through fourth grade.

Having some volunteers attend Raymond Elementary "would help equalize some of the class sizes across the two buildings," Prince said.

He said in his letter that the locations of the proposed bus stops have not been determined, but might be near the Manchester School in North Windham and near the Raymond town line.

The letter, he said, was meant to gauge interest before deciding whether to pursue the plan.

The budget that Prince is presenting to the school board at the meeting Wednesday is $880,000 higher than the current budget. Prince said the increase is largely due to a contracted 2 percent salary increase for teachers.

The proposed budget accounts for a $522,000 increase in retirement costs, as proposed by Gov. Paul LePage, and a $202,000 reduction in state subsidy.

Prince said he did not know how much the proposed budget would affect taxes in the two towns, but "there will be a tax increase of some sort" if his proposed budget passes.

He would not say whether his budget proposal will include any staff reductions.

The school board meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Windham Council chambers.

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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