April 04, 2020

SAD 1 considers closing school> Gouldville elementary pupils could be reassigned to save money

PRESQUE ISLE — Local education officials will begin this week considering a recommendation that the Gouldville Elementary School be closed. This marks the second time in five years that the issue has been discussed in an effort to save money for SAD 1.

A task force established by the district’s board of directors also has recommended that kindergarten through grade five be reassigned to two other schools in Presque Isle.

Besides Presque Isle, SAD 1 is composed of Mapleton, Castle Hill, Chapman and Westfield. The recommendation to close the Gouldville school in Presque Isle and to reassign the lower grades would not affect the other district’s communities.

The estimated saving from closing Gouldville is about $247,000 annually, according to the task force.

The 10-member task force will meet with the school board at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, at the Presque Isle High School cafeteria. During the session, the task force will explain its recommendation and answer questions from the board.

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, at the high school cafeteria.

The issue may be on the agenda when the board meets for its monthly session at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, at Skyway Middle School in Presque Isle. During this meeting, there may or may not be action taken on the issue, according to Gehrig Johnson, district superintendent, on Sunday.

The 75-year-old school houses about 110 students, one classroom each of kindergarten through grade five. Portions of the two-story building have been leased out to the Aroostook County Action Program for its Head Start and preschool day care programs.

“We’ve got a lot of empty space,” said Johnson. “Right now we’re leasing it out.”

An effort to close the elementary school failed in 1993, when voters declined to give the board the authority to consider closing the school. Officials had proposed closing the facility because of dwindling student population as result of the closing of Loring Air Force Base. Gouldville was located near housing in Presque Isle where some of the base’s military personnel and their families lived.

Shrinking enrollment, as well as projected population for the schools, led the task force to make a similar recommendation.

Closing Gouldville would save $57,000 in the building’s operation and maintenance and $70,000 in support staff and administration. Another $120,000 would be saved in teaching staff. A one-time cost of $5,000 for relocation of equipment would be realized.

Johnson said that the recommendation does not include a potential closure date.

The superintendent also pointed out that the district has lost 67 positions since 1991 because of decreased state funding. Most of those positions have been decreased through attrition and not layoffs, Johnson said.

The task force also proposed the Presque Isle pupils in kindergarten through grade two attend the Pine Street Elementary School and grades three through five would attend Zippel Elementary School. Grades six through 12 will not be affected by the proposed changes.

Established in the spring of 1997, the task force has spent 20 hours in attending meetings, visiting schools and discussing alternatives, according to the panel report presented in November.

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