GARDINER — The board of Gardiner-based School Administrative District 11 continued its discussion Thursday night about closing Teresa C. Hamlin School in Randolph, which has just 44 students and is one of the smallest schools in the state.

The aging school has a capacity of 155 students, but its enrollment has declined in recent years. Patricia Hopkins, superintendent of the district, which includes Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner, said a committee first began assessing space needs for the district in 2010, her first year as superintendent.

The full board discussion came after an ad-hoc committee met in November, and that committee will continue to meet to discuss potential scenarios involving the Hamlin school and its students. The panel is made up of school district board members, administrators, teachers, parents and municipal officials.

When the committee was formed, Hopkins said the public could watch but wouldn’t be permitted to comment during the meetings. Public comment is expected once a recommendation to the board is made. There was no public comment at Thursday’s meeting.

Hopkins said it’s important to consider what class sizes would be if the Randolph students were moved to Pittston.

“We do not currently have enough space to accommodate all the students,” Hopkins said. “We’d have to have a modular classroom.”

The idea of spending about $450,000 for a portable structure with four classrooms doesn’t sit well with board member Eric Jermyn. He said it would be pointless to spend that much money for a new structure when space exists elsewhere in the district.

“We do have the space if we just rearrange, but I know how poorly that effort went last time,” Jermyn said. “It’s been my concern all along.”

Michael Gammon, another board member, said he doesn’t like the idea of a portable classroom because it isolates the students from the rest of the school. Board Chairwoman Rebecca Fles said the district has to be careful not to underutilize two buildings to keep another one open.

“We have some difficult decisions to make,” she said.

Fles said the district is in a difficult predicament in talking about closing one school and moving the students to another. That decision would affect not only Randolph, but Pittston too, if that’s where the students end up. Hopkins said all voices must be heard.

“As we put more focus on the relationship between T.C. (Hamlin) and Pittston, I want to make sure we don’t forget the voice of Pittston people and staff,” the superintendent said.

Board member Nancy Fortier-Brown cited raw emotions in the SAD 11 community, and she said she’s concerned that people attending meetings or watching them online aren’t hearing the same message or information.

“People aren’t hearing what we’re saying,” Fortier-Brown said. “Emotions are pretty strong in Randolph right now.”

Since its first meeting in early November, the ad-hoc committee has considered demographic information for Randolph, which is the smallest town in the state by size, including the average age of homeowners in town, what the real estate sales have been and whether younger families are moving to Randolph.

Enrollment at the school was 120 in 2011, but it dropped to its current total after the transfer of second- and third-graders to another school after their teacher left her job. There is a kindergarten, a first grade and a combined third-through-fifth-grade class. The majority of the school’s students are from Randolph. There are 21 staff members and no principal.

A committee also met during the 2013-14 school year to consider reconfiguring the district. One of those considerations was closing the Randolph elementary school, but it has remained open.

The procedure for closing a school is spelled out by the state Department of Education. The requirements include completing a cost analysis report and other paperwork.

If school officials determine the school is unnecessary, they will have to develop a projection of the number of students in the next five years in the affected area as well as a projection of the educational programs they would need. Additionally, they will have to have to show how the affected students would be educated and develop projections for transportation and other programs. If any financial commitments tied to the Hamlin School exist, they have to be disclosed. And district officials must also present the financial effect of closing the school building and have a statement of reasons for closing the school building. If the school district pursues that route, its decision is subject to voters’ approval.

If the recommendation is to close the school, that decision would have to be made before the district’s budget planning is completed in the spring for the process to be set in motion for the next school year.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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