SOMERVILLE — All Somerville Elementary students may be sent to Windsor School next year.

The administrators of Regional School Unit 12 are recommending the change as one of several steps to reorganize the district and save more than $300,000 annually.

School district officials will present more information about the proposal at a public meeting scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the school’s gym.

Chris Johnson, an district school board member from Somerville, said it’s important that the elementary school building would remain in use because town residents would not support a plan to close it.

“This town doesn’t have a downtown,” he said. “This is the most important gathering place for Somerville.”

Somerville Elementary has 14 regular education students and eight in a behavioral program. About nine part-time and full-time employees work at the school, in addition to a dedicated bus driver, and that is not sustainable, Superintendent Greg Potter said.

The new Chelsea School has five or six classrooms that are not being used, and a facilities review committee has identified un-used space at Windsor School. Together, using those spaces would allow multiple programs and offices to be moved.

Somerville children in kindergarten through grade five attend Somerville Elementary, and middle school-age children are attending Windsor School for the first time this year. Somerville parents also can send elementary-age children to Windsor to be with older siblings, so about half of Somerville’s resident students attend Windsor School, Potter said.

Potter said district leaders do not want to close Somerville’s school, both so it remains available to the town and because it would require a public referendum to close it.

“Our attorneys have weighed in on the definition of school closure,” Potter said. “It would not be met unless you were not offering some sort of K to 12 educational program there.”

Under the proposal, the high school alternative education program would be moved to Somerville from a leased building at 320 Griffin Road in Whitefield, a former farmhouse that the program shares with the special education office. All or part of the special education office also would move to Somerville.

The behavioral program would move to Chelsea School. Potter said it’s necessary to have that program in an elementary school because students are placed into regular classrooms, as appropriate.

The district’s central office staff also would move to Chelsea from a leased trailer at 69 Augusta Road in Whitefield.

The school district would save money by letting those two leases end, as well as not paying for services such as Internet at those locations. But Potter said the primary savings from the reorganization would result from staff reductions at Somerville Elementary.

Between expected reductions in state and federal funding, and increased interest payments for the construction of Chelsea School, the school district will have to fill a gap of more than $1 million in next year’s budget. Reorganizing programs as proposed would cover up to one-third of that gap.

All of the proposals to move students count as “involuntary transfers” under district policy and require school board approval. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan on March 8.

Potter said the district will host a public information in Chelsea, but no date has been scheduled.

He presented the idea to Somerville selectmen on Jan. 24 and said they received the proposal well.

“So far we haven’t really seen any opposition,” he said.

Somerville’s three selectmen — Carolyn Doyle, David Stanley and Martha Staples — did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment.

Johnson said Windsor School has been good for the Somerville students attending there this year and that he supports the reorganization plan, though he also looks forward to public input on Monday.

“This is one of those rare opportunities to save money while also improving educational opportunities,” he said.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]


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