GARDINER — The Regional School Unit 11 board will vote Thursday on a question that has arisen repeatedly in recent years: whether to reorganize the district’s elementary-age students in Pittston and Randolph schools.

A committee of school board members, administrators, teachers and parents has wrapped up a months-long study of a proposal to put all students in pre-kindergarten to second grade at Pittston Consolidated School and create a school at T.C. Hamlin in Randolph serving grades three through five.

Both schools now serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and Hamlin also has a pre-kindergarten program.

The study committee is not making a recommendation to the school board, but Superintendent Pat Hopkins told them recently that she thinks such a reconfiguration is unnecessary.

The school board will vote at its meeting Thursday whether to pursue the school reconfiguration. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the school district’s central office at 150 Highland Ave.

“As a result of doing this analysis, this investigation for the past few months, it has allowed people to come forward and brainstorm other alternative means of addressing the issues identified by the school board,” Hopkins said in an interview.

Pittston Principal Shelly Simpson said school district members have talked about whether to reorganize Hamlin and Pittston for at least seven years.

Hamlin, which has 120 students, has only one class at each grade level, which can lead to teachers feeling isolated from their peers in the district, according to school officials.

Pittston has 184 students, and the school board was concerned about providing them with enough space, Simpson said.

Hopkins said both schools have had problems when an especially large or small group of students moves through, and reconfiguring could make it easier to keep class sizes consistent and manageable.

The study committee considered enrollment forecasts, transportation issues, parent’s opinions and research relating to the educational impact of different school configurations.

They found that reconfiguring the schools would allow teachers to collaborate more and possibly work in teams. It would also be more feasible to offer specialized programs to all students at each grade level.

On the other hand, research suggests that student achievement decreases the more students have to transition between schools, as reconfiguration would require them to do between the second and third grades.

Having children in different schools also could be difficult for parents.

Bus runs would be 20 to 30 minutes longer, increasing transportation costs by $17,000 per year. The district would incur initial costs for moving and some minor building modifications, and reorganizing would not necessarily allow for a reduction in staff positions, according to the committee’s report.

“I told the community and the board at the meeting that I went into this process favoring reconfiguration; I felt that was the best solution,” Hopkins said. “But that was not my recommendation.”

There are other ways to deal with some of the problems, she said.

Hamlin, for example, had 23 students in kindergarten at the beginning of the year. That was too many for one class but not enough to justify bringing in another teacher. So the district asked some parents to send their children to Pittston, which reduced the class to 19 students.

Likewise, Pittston had too many students in first grade until some parents decided to move their children at the district’s request.

Many Hamlin teachers also have joined “professional learning” committees set up in Pittston so they can collaborate and coordinate with fellow teachers.

Whatever school board members decide, Simpson said the district will still benefit from the committee’s research.

“We simply did not know answers to many, many questions,” Simpson said. “This gave us the opportunity to really take the time to do a thorough fact-finding and to present the truth as we see it. It’s a great feeling to know that however it may end up, it’s based on true fact-finding and not emotions.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

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