GARDINER — The school board for the Gardiner-area school district will hold a public forum in two weeks on a recommendation to close the elementary school in Randolph.

At the School Administrative District 11 board meeting Thursday, district Superintendent Patricia Hopkins recommended a community forum be held during which board members and the public can hear a presentation on the information that led to the recommendation to close Teresa C. Hamlin School and ask questions.

The board agreed to the forum, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 25. The location will be announced later.

The forum is expected to be the only item on the agenda, and the board is expected to vote at that time.

The district’s ad hoc committee, made up of Randolph parents, elected officials, school staff members, district officials and school board members, recommended at its meeting Monday to close the elementary school after considering a range of factors, including what’s still owed on loans to pay for improvements to the Randolph school, staffing and transportation costs, and the likelihood that Randolph’s population might increase. As part of the recommendation, the committee also supported securing portable classrooms to be added to the Pittston elementary school to accommodate the move in the short term. The module would contain four classrooms, two bathrooms and an office.

“If you vote to close the school, there are a lot legal steps to go through,” Hopkins said.

The process required to be followed for a school closure is outlined on the state Department of Education’s website. One of them is a vote by Randolph residents on the closure.

Town residents may opt to override the board’s decision, but that would require the town to pay for the cost of the lost savings in addition to whatever they pay in their property taxes to support the school.

Board Chairwoman Becky Fles cautioned board members that they might receive calls or emails from district residents asking for their opinion or to make statements about the recommendation.

“Get off the phone as soon as possible,” Fles said. “Invite them to the meeting.”

Fles said she thinks some of the residents’ frustration stems from the fact that they can’t find the information they are looking for on the district’s website.

“If there’s anything we can do to so that people can access it, I encourage it,” she said.

The ad hoc meetings were videotaped and posted to YouTube; the materials the committee viewed are expected to be posted on the website, and on Facebook.

Four years ago this week, school board members were considering whether to close the Randolph school as the board discussed two options for moving students around to address space problems in the Gardiner-area district. At that time, only 80 full-time students were enrolled in the school, which has a capacity for 155.

Also at that time, enrollment at Helen Thompson School, the West Gardiner elementary school, was 288, above the building’s capacity of 260.

One option was sending Gardiner students across the Kennebec River to T.C. Hamlin and some West Gardiner students to Gardiner’s elementary schools; the other was converting Gardiner’s elementary schools, Laura E. Richards and River View, to kindergarten-through fifth-grade schools and closing T.C. Hamlin and sending those students to River View. It was not clear at the time where the pre-kindergarten classes that were held at T.C. Hamlin at that time would be held.

A month later, the school board rejected both of those options.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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