AUGUSTA — The school board on Wednesday will hear about plans to move elementary students to different schools, adjust next year’s budget and consider an employment agreement for interim Superintendent James Anastasio.
The special meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Capital Area Technical Center cafeteria.
The agenda includes a briefing for administrators to tell the school board how they plan to address the problem of uneven class sizes in Augusta’s four elementary schools. Farrington Elementary has classes of 25 or 26 students at certain grade levels, while other elementary schools have classes of 16 or 17 students in the same grades.
Anastasio, Assistant Superintendent Donna Madore and the elementary school principals identified 62 students who would change schools, mostly moving from Farrington to other schools.
Madore said the large classes create challenges for teachers and students alike, and they aren’t in keeping with a school board policy that recommends class sizes of no more than 22 students in grades three through five.
“It was hire more teachers to drop those class sizes, especially at Farrington, or rebalance all of the classes districtwide,” she said.
The rebalancing does not involve redrawing district lines. Madore said she, Anastasio and the elementary school principals first sought volunteers to change schools by sending letters to parents of students in affected grades.
They then identified students who had registered at a school most recently and assigned them to return to their neighborhood school or the other school on the same side of the city — Farrington and Hussey east of the Kennebec River and Gilbert and Lincoln on the west side.
The new assignments keep siblings together and ensure that special education students and English language learners attend the schools with those programs. The district will provide busing for all students affected by the rebalancing.
Projected class sizes after rebalancing range between 18 and 23 students at all elementary schools.
If the school board does not object to the process, the administrators will finalize the list of students and begin notifying parents. Informational meetings will be scheduled at each elementary school.
“We’re excited about this change in making all the class sizes districtwide pretty equitable,” Madore said. “But we know it’s going to be a challenge to get this all completed and let parents know.”
By not hiring three additional teachers, the school district saves $180,000. There will be new staff, though.
The move of the central office from Hussey Elementary to Capital Area Technical Center in April frees up enough space for sixth grade to return to Hussey after a year at Farrington. With those students, plus an additional classroom of fourth graders, Hussey’s enrollment will increase by about 70 students.
Augusta’s 2014-15 budget would add an additional $60,000 to provide a half-time guidance counselor and a half-time nurse at Hussey to accommodate the larger enrollment.
The school board will vote Wednesday on adjusting one of the budget articles they’ve approved to include the costs of the guidance counselor and the nurse.
They’ll also vote on amendments to other articles to appropriate and spend about $220,000 less on debt service.
The agenda also includes an executive session to discuss a proposed employment agreement for Anastasio and a motion to approve the agreement.
It’s not clear why a new employment agreement is coming before the board now. Anastasio was out sick on Monday, and board Chairwoman Susan Campbell did not return a call or an email.
Last year, the school board extended Anastasio’s term as interim superintendent for two years, with a contract that expires in June 2015.
That was intended to give the school board enough time to seek a change in the city charter, which requires that the school superintendent live in Augusta, and then conduct a new search for a superintendent.
Board members have said that the residency requirement hindered their last search, in late 2012, because potential candidates did not want to relocate to Augusta. Anastasio has expressed interest in the job, but he lives in Gardiner.
Earlier this year, the school board asked the City Council to put a charter amendment on the ballot in November, when voter turnout should be stronger than in the June primary, to remove the residency requirement.
City councilors expressed support for a ballot measure, but the city’s attorney advised them to wait until after the June election to take action. City Manager William Bridgeo said he expects the council to take it up again in late June.