SOMERVILLE — A reorganization proposal that involves moving the school district’s central office into unused classrooms in Chelsea Elementary School is raising security concerns among some residents and board members.

During a public meeting Monday night, Chelsea mother Deb Sanderson said the hallway in which the central office would be relocated is in the lower grades wing of the building, which houses kindergarten through eighth grade, and would put visitors in close proximity to some of the youngest students. The central office has nine employees.

Chelsea school board member Barb Skehan said that if administrators had proposed this idea before construction finished on the new school last year, it might have been incorporated into the building design.

“Once they’re in that building, it’s open,” Skehan said. “There’s not a separation to keep them away from those students.”

District Superintendent Greg Potter said district staff would look closely at security procedures, saying that hundreds of people visit the central office each month. Now, the office is in a leased trailer on Route 17 in Whitefield.

Potter said the offices would be at the end of a hallway, with a separate entrance and sign-in procedures to keep the building secure.

He pointed out that Augusta schools administration offices operate out of Hussey Elementary School.

The meeting on the reorganization proposal, held in the Somerville Elementary School gymnasium, attracted about 50 people.

Regional School Unit 12 administrators are recommending closing Somerville Elementary as part of a larger reorganization of the district that also would affect the primary schools in Chelsea and Windsor.

Potter will present more information at a meeting in Chelsea on Wednesday, Feb. 29, and the RSU 12 school board will vote on the plan at its March meeting.

In addition to the central office, administrators are recommending that a behavioral program be moved from Somerville Elementary to Chelsea. That program is capped at eight students.

At the start of the school year, Somerville Elementary had 15 students in kindergarten through grade five. Under the reorganization plan, those students would attend Windsor School next year.

Middle school-age students from Somerville already attend Windsor, as do some of their younger siblings.

The Somerville school would be used for high school alternative education, which has 12 students sharing a leased converted farmhouse in Whitefield with the district’s special education office.

All or part of the special education office also would move to Somerville.

Potter said the reorganization would save the school district at least $350,000 and that he would be able to present more specific projections at the Feb. 29 meeting.

About $65,000 in savings would come from ceasing use of the two leased buildings in Whitefield. Most of the estimated savings, however, would come from eliminating positions in Somerville, where 11 part-time and full-time staff members serve the regular education students.

Since 2007, Somerville’s student population has declined 6.3 percent, to 67 this year.

There was little discussion at Monday’s meeting about the educational impact for Somerville’s elementary students.

Sanderson, the mother from Chelsea, said she’s also worried about parking at Chelsea School — it’s already limited, she said, and the reorganization plan would add more than a dozen staff members at the school.

Somerville father Dan Carroll said he sent his son, now 20, to Windsor for seventh and eighth grades so that he could participate in music and sports.

“It was very positive,” Carroll said. “It was good for him to have a larger, extended group of people.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]


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