More than 1,000 Brunswick taxpayers, parents, teachers and students are actively questioning the School Board’s decision to move 5th graders to the junior high.

The projected overcrowding for 2014 is only 50 students. If the unmerited reconfiguration is implemented it will come at a large expense to taxpayers, unnecessarily burden our teachers and potentially place the entire 5th grade student body in an unsafe developmental environment.

Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health has determined that when younger grades are combined within a school with older grades, they are at greater risk for substance abuse within their high school years. http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/osa/prevention/provider/PFS%20Marijuana%20Focus%20Group%20Report%20FINAL%202014.pdf).

Both Coffin and HBS are successfully utilizing popular multi-age classrooms. There’s no doubt that expanding this effective strategy at 1/2 and implementing two classes at the 5/6 level we could easily solve the minimal overcrowding. We know the latter option will appeal to families who have siblings at the Junior High School.

At the town council’s small financial meeting on November 20th, Paul Caron, director of facilities, stated that he had estimated the costs for the 5th grade move by looking up the lease expense for mobiles. No consideration was made for associated costs including but not limited to cafeteria expansion (which barely handles current BHJS enrollment), playground equipment and busing. We also believe the costs for site preparation, sewage, electrical wiring were underestimated. It’s clear that school board was asked to render a decision without comprehensive cost comparisons.

Brunswick Junior High’s survey of Maine schools that have adapted this reconfiguration demonstrates that Brunswick will be entering with the worst facility and busing situation. Only one other school district in Maine buses 9-19 year old students together and they do so with employed bus monitors. It is important to note, that the majority of schools with this configuration have existing facilities that separate grades 5/6 from 7/8.

Furthermore, Maine Human Rights commission has a pending ‘bullying’ lawsuit filed against the Brunswick Junior high School (see article in the Bangor Daily News, July 15, 2014). This is clearly not the time to introduce a younger grade into the Junior High School without due consideration, all of the potential unintended consequences of such a decision.

We implore the school board to use taxpayers money wisely by not rushing into an unnecessary reconfiguration that requires an indefinite lease of seven mobile units. Please do not further disrupt the education and safety of rising fourth graders who have already weathered three school changes in five years, more than any class in Brunswick’s Public school history.

Heidi and Jon Boyd,
Teresa V. Kelly-Gillis and
Jeff Gillis, Eleesa and
Cian Marnagh, Ben Tucker and Ana Hicks, Elsa
Heros, and Christopher
and Lauren Watkinson
Brunswick