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Sandwich BOS gets info on plan to cut sixth grade

February 03, 2010
SANDWICH — Inter-Lakes officials explained rationale behind cutting the sixth grade at Sandwich Central School to the selectmen amid concerns of what impact it might have on the community.

Inter-Lakes Superintendent Phil McCormack appeared before the Sandwich Board of Selectmen on Monday with Sandwich School Board representative Dan Cunningham.

The meeting took place to answer questions and address concerns held by the Selectmen and learn more about the proposal to move the sixth grade at SCS to the Middle Tier in Meredith.

Selectman Bud Martin said the members of the Board have been getting phone calls from residents regarding the proposed cuts at SCS.

Residents from Sandwich came out in force at Tuesday's public hearing to speak against the proposal to move sixth grade out of Sandwich.

The $89,730 proposed to be cut by eliminating the sixth grade is in salaries and benefits for the teacher's position.

The proposal would not affect costs for transportation as a bus already picks up and drops off seventh graders.

"I think of eight kids who have been accustomed to eight kids and now they're in a cluster of 23 kids in a Meredith school," Martin said.

Martin asked if the $89,000 could be found somewhere else. McCormack said the administrative team spent hours going through the budget and possible areas to cut. McCormack said the School Board made decisions on what would get reinstated, including keeping the 1.2 teacher positions in Spanish as opposed to reinstating the sixth grade at SCS.

Martin said he would get a sense of the community that they would rather see Spanish go than the sixth grade.

McCormack said additional positions put back in the budget included eight paraprofessionals and some co-curricular activities.

McCormack said he was part of a district enrollment committee around 2005 that discussed the possibility of closing SCS.

"I objected to it then, I object to it now," McCormack said.

"I think a lot of people's fear is this just might be a foot in the door," said Board Chair Russell Johnson. "I think that is a lot of people's fear, we are an easy target."

McCormack said he did not think SCS was an easier target than any of the other schools.

School Board member Carol Baggaley, in response to one resident's question, said there were many other areas where students and teachers were feeling pain with this budget with the loss of other positions and many extra-curricular activities being cut.

Selectman Leo Dwyer asked about the possible impact on eight or nine students suddenly traveling 360 hours a year to school.

Cunningham said he spoke to his daughter, who is going into seventh grade, how she would feel about being put into the Middle Tier early.

"It wouldn't have an adverse effect on her," Cunningham said. "She was fine. I think some of this class would have had no problem at all."

Dwyer said that perspective was being given by a student already expecting to go to the Middle School and already ready prepared for the process.

Baggaley said her sons had a similar experience going from a small private school in Meredith to the Middle Tier and they made a good transition.

Other residents expressed concern with class sizes as enrollments in Sandwich have been increasing.

McCormack said there are assistants in the classrooms, including paraprofessionals and a reading specialist among others, who would be able to lower the ratio of students to teachers and provide assistance.

Resident Nancy Fredrickson said many of these changes seem like they would work on paper though would have an effect on the entire school population. Fredrickson also remarked on what was chosen to remain instead of the sixth grade.

McCormack said there were considerations that Board members may have felt impacted seven students as opposed to 30.

Resident John Martin raised the issue of how people in the Master Plan Survey said they considered SCS an important part of the community.

Resident Kim Mohan said the two biggest class sizes in Sandwich would be the second and third and fourth and fifth grades as a result of changes and more would be impacted than just the sixth grade.

"We actually have 55 children being nailed the way this is being set up," Mohan said. "I think we should be concerned about our entire elementary school. They're being asked to give much more than (a) pint of blood, in my opinion."

McCormack said the greatest fear among the School Board seems to be the possibility of the entire budget being voted down in the midst of an economy where many residents are in dire financial straits. Under these circumstances the sixth grade was a "reasonable target."

"As a Board member that is one of our biggest fears, the chances of that getting shot down to less than zero are high," Cunningham said. "We feel that coming in with as low as a reasonable number will give us the best chance of it getting passed. They can cut it; we'll lose more than what's in here on all three levels. That's our sincere fear."

The budget public hearing will take place on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Inter-Lakes Community Auditorium. A School Board meeting will follow on Feb. 9 to approve the bottom line that will go to district meeting.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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