A task force is poised to recommend closing North Yarmouth Memorial School in light of the building’s growing maintenance needs and declining enrollment in School Administrative District 51.

Future fourth- and fifth-graders in North Yarmouth and Cumberland would attend Greely Middle School in Cumberland, where four classrooms would be added to help accommodate about 250 to 300 additional students, according to a preliminary report from the task force.

Closing the school in North Yarmouth would save the school district more than $500,000 per year in capital-improvement and operating costs, even with a $2 million expansion to the middle school.

“The task force did a very thorough job reviewing a variety of options,” said Superintendent Bob Hasson. “This seems to be the most educationally and fiscally balanced option.”

The 10-member task force was led by Mark Girard, one of five North Yarmouth representatives on the panel. It also included four Cumberland representatives and the superintendent. Task force members didn’t respond to calls seeking comment for this story.

The task force began meeting in October and is expected to present its final report to the school board in late March or early April, Hasson said. A public hearing will be held soon after the presentation.

If the board supports the closure, SAD 51 will be left with three schools on one campus off Main Street in Cumberland Center. Any change would happen after the 2012-13 school year, so there would be plenty of time for planning, Hasson said.

Mabel Wilson Elementary School would continue to serve kindergarten through grade 3. Greely Middle School would expand to serve grades 4 through 8. Greely High School would continue to serve grades 9 through 12.

In June, voters in Cumberland and North Yarmouth agreed to close Drowne Road Elementary School in Cumberland, which served third-graders. That building is being converted by Bateman Partners of Portland into 38 affordable apartments for senior citizens.

Built in 1976, North Yarmouth Memorial School was designed for 520 students. Enrollment this year is down to 341, and it’s projected to drop to 256 students by 2016-17, according to the New England School Development Council. The council bases its projections on declining birth rates and housing starts.

The district’s total enrollment this year is 2,114 students, and the total is projected to drop to 1,791 in five years, down from a maximum of 2,400 students in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

North Yarmouth Memorial School has maintenance and repair problems, including the fact that it’s a wood-frame building on a concrete slab, Hasson said.

The building is susceptible to rot, and a back wall had to be replaced in 2010 because of mold, according to the task force’s meeting minutes. Poor insulation and roof drainage often cause ice dams. Parts of the building are moving and damaging the roof structure, requiring future repairs.

The heating, cooling and electrical systems are outdated and insufficient to sustain modern technology. The building is considered safe, according to meeting minutes, but it doesn’t meet modern standards for air quality and handicapped accessibility.

The task force considered nine distinct options, ranging from continuing to operate the school as it is to building a new school on the site for $10.5 million. A total renovation would cost about $5 million.

The task force also considered the efforts that Cumberland officials have made in recent years to promote housing development and boost school enrollment, including planned construction of 36 single-family homes and 11 duplexes on former town-owned land off Drowne Road, also by Bateman Partners.

With that potential population growth in mind, the task force is expected to recommend school building capacity that’s 20 percent higher than projected enrollments, to accommodate future growth and population fluctuations.

Built for 750 students, Greely Middle School now has 500 in grades 6 through 8, and enrollment is expected to drop to 455 students by 2016-17, according to meeting minutes.

The task force focused on the middle school in part because it was designed to accommodate building expansions.

Expanding the middle school’s cafeteria and adding four permanent classrooms would create a separate educational space for children in grades 4 and 5, according to the task force’s preliminary report.

The middle school expansion would cost $2 million and produce annual debt payments and additional operating costs totaling $200,000 per year, according to the report.

Closing North Yarmouth Memorial School would save about $750,000 per year, resulting in a total savings of about $550,000 per year.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]