Students in RSU 21 who register for fall classes after June 1 could be assigned to an elementary school based on a number of factors, not just residency, pending a vote by the school board on recommendations from an Enrollment Task Force. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – New students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 5 who register for classes in RSU 21 after June 1 could be assigned to an elementary school that isn’t in the town where they live, pending a school board vote.

The new students would be placed in a district school based on a number of factors, including grade cohort, class size and school capacity; location; preference; programs; siblings and family composition and student need.

Enrollment in RSU 21 elementary schools has always been based on where student lived, for the most part. If the student lived in Kennebunk’s Lower Village, it didn’t matter that Consolidated School was closer – the student was bused to Kennebunk Elementary School.

There are exceptions. Arundel has had steady population growth, and Mildred L Day School can’t accommodate all students, so some are bused to KES or Kennebunkport Consolidated School.

The enrollment inequities have resulted in bigger classes in some of the schools, and small classes in others, say members of an Enrollment Task Force, that has been looking at ways to eliminate inequities created by enrollment imbalances, according to RSU 21 School Board member and task force chair Sarah Dore.

The Enrollment Task Force rolled out their recommendations to the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen on Thursday, Feb. 27. The task force was scheduled to meet with the Kennebunk Select Board on Wednesday, March 4 and will meet with the Arundel Board of Selectmen at 6 p.m. Monday, March 9 at Mildred L. Day School library. Then comes a workshop with the RSU 21 School Board on March 25, and an as-yet unscheduled vote.


Interim Superintendent Phillip Potenziano said there will be a one-year delay for current families.

The task force also pointed out that based on an existing school board policy, the superintendent has the authority to move current students to balance enrollment. The task force believes that should take place, by reviewing overall district enrollment status in the spring of 2021 to determine of any Pre-K- to Grade 1 students who don’t have siblings currently attending the same elementary school be reassigned in the fall of 2021 to address unresolved enrollment issues.

Current enrollment at the schools varies. KES, a Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 2 school, has 396 students; Sea Road School, a Grade 3 to 5 school, has 313 students; Mildred L. Day School, a Kindergarten to Grade 5 School, has 227 students and Consolidated School, 143, according to a report by the task force. While Mildred L. Day School shows steady enrollment. KES and Sea Road schools show a slight decline – the two schools had a combined enrollment of 702 in the 2008-09 school year; the combined enrollment is 643 this school year. Consolidated School shows what the Enrollment Task Force described as “stark, sustained declines.” Enrollment dropped from 209 students in 2009-09 to 143 today – of those 143, just 100 are resident students.

Imbalanced enrollment has caused a variety of school-specific inequities, the Enrollment Task Force reported. At KES, large classes have resulted in a need to hire more support staff, and impacts the ability of teachers to provide as much one -on- one instruction as desired or available at other schools.

At KCS some classes have as few as 14 students per grade, while the average class size at KES is close to 20. At Mildred L. Day School, class size varies from a low of 17 students to a high of 24, depending on the grade.

Task force member Gaby Grekin said the panel looked at 11 options. She said closing a school was not among them – though it would have been, if not for the Pre-Kindergarten program.


“This feels right in terms of flexibility,” said Megan Michaud, who had served on a prior enrollment task force. “We need these strong elementary schools.”

Michaud said she doubted her family would have moved back to the area had Consolidated School closed.

“There’s no easy answer, but you’re on the right track,” said David James of the Kennebunkport Residents Association.

“It looks like you heard the voices of the people in Kennebunkport,” said Selectman Ed Hutchins.

He said the selectmen’s board is committed to keeping a school in Kennebunkport, and at the same time recognizes there are affordability struggles that make it difficult for families to live in town.

“This is a great solution that effects families the least,” said a parent and Kindergarten teacher.

The task force also recommends a review of all out- of -district placements and other agreements to determine placement for the fall of 2020; that the district work with current Pre-Kindergarten parents to encourage Kindergarten placement at Consolidated School ; review current bus routes from Kennebunk and Arundel to Kennebunkport and work with families to encourage placement at Consolidated School; work with current Grade 2 families transitioning from KES to encourage placement at Consolidated School and use new placement factors when making decisions on in-district placement requests.

Potenziano said he believes current bus routes can be used, and so added transportation costs would be minimal.

“I want to remind everyone that this is an excellent school system; the quality of the schools are superb, no matter where they go,” said selectman Patrick Briggs.

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