CHELSEA — Regional School Unit 12 administrators have decided against moving the district’s central office into Chelsea Elementary School.

Superintendent Greg Potter told parents and Chelsea residents about the decision at a meeting on Wednesday. They are still proposing, however, to move a behavioral education program from Somerville Elementary to Chelsea, which has some people worried about building space and disruptions.

District administrators explored moving the central office from a leased trailer on Route 17 in Whitefield to two of the five classrooms at Chelsea not being used daily.

But the district received a $23,000 estimate for the cost of renovating the classrooms into an office, Potter said. It also would be necessary to build more parking space to accommodate the vehicles of both the central office staff and the behavioral program staff, erasing any first-year savings from moving the central office.

Parents also had raised concerns about security and keeping central office visitors away from students. Potter said the office has received an average of eight visitors per day in the past month, and in conjunction with the projected costs, that persuaded administrators to look for other solutions.

The central office may be moved to the Somerville school, which would cease to operate as an elementary school next year if the school board approves administrators’ recommended reorganization.

“It’s not the best scenario in terms of geographic location, but it could very well work, and it could very well have us realize a budget savings impact right off the bat,” Potter said.

The district, also known as Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit, serves Alna, Chelsea, Palermo, Somerville, Westport Island, Whitefield, Windsor and Wiscasset.

Other recommendations include moving Somerville’s elementary students to Windsor and the high school alternative education program to Somerville, from another leased facility in Whitefield.

Somerville Elementary also is home to a program for students with behavioral issues called BACE-B, which has seven students in kindergarten through grade five, served by one teacher and four education technicians.

Because students in BACE are supposed to be integrated into mainstream classrooms, it has to be in a building with an elementary school.

One mother at the meeting on Wednesday said she thinks the BACE students could disrupt her children’s education, but Somerville Elementary Principal Dale Haywood said the program has been a welcome addition to her school since last year.

“I think of some of my regular education kids who have issues on a given day, and it’s no worse with the BACE students,” Haywood said. “And the nice thing is the BACE kids have someone to work with them.”

District Special Education Director Delia Dearnley said the BACE-B program should be placed at Chelsea because it’s centrally located within the district, and other centrally located schools, such as the ones in Windsor and Whitefield, don’t have the room.

BACE-B would use two classrooms and share a bathroom with BACE-A, a similar program for students with autism.

The father of a boy in BACE-A said he worries about the students sharing a bathroom and possibly competing for other space as the program grows.

Dearnley said the district wouldn’t put more than eight or nine students in BACE-B and that BACE-A is also intended to be a small program.

Several people who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting said they are worried about their new school becoming crowded like the old one.

“Chelsea is the center of the RSU, and it’s always going to make sense to put something in Chelsea because it’s at the center,” said Chelsea father Mike Brannigan. “This is just the first thing. And before you know it, there’s no more room to breathe.”

Chelsea’s population is going to grow because of the expansion of nearby medical facilities, father Darby Erickson said. Between the two behavioral programs, he’s concerned about so few students taking up so many classrooms.

“If you move them in here, you’re going to take away classrooms for the regular (education) kids that this school was designed for by architects,” Erickson said.

“I would say that this school was designed for all kids,” Dearnely responded.

Potter said school district staff will continue to study the issues, and the school board will vote in April on proposals to move students.

Meantime, people with questions or concerns are encouraged to contact administrators or school board members via email addresses available on the district website,

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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