VERONA ISLAND – Voters in the School Administrative District 18 towns of Verona Island and Prospect will decide at the polls next month whether to approve a new school contract that would send all the youngsters in those towns to Bucksport schools.
The question will be on the ballot in both towns for the Nov. 8 elections.
Such a vote would continue a tradition that goes back to 1963 when the district was established, according to Superintendent Marc Curtis, who administers both SAD 18 and the Bucksport School Department.
“There is a long and rich history of those [SAD] students being involved in the academic and co-curricular activities in Bucksport,” he said. “The students are also involved in the community, especially through the town’s recreation department.
The current contract expires at the end of this school year, and the boards of both school districts have recommended that voters authorize them to enter into a new, five-year exclusive contract to send all SAD 18 students in grades kindergarten through grade 12 to the Bucksport schools. The new contract would run through June 2011.
The SAD sends 178 students to the Bucksport schools. Of those, 70 are from Verona Island, 45 elementary pupils and 25 high school; and 108 from Prospect, 75 elementary pupils and 33 high school.
Although the overall number of students in the Bucksport school system has increased slightly this year, Curtis said the general trend seems to be toward smaller classes, and those numbers are expected to remain stable over the life of the contract.
The contract does not include specific tuition rate figures. “Bucksport charges the tuition rate approved by the state,” Curtis said.
This year, the tuition rate for elementary pupils is $6,025, and for high school students, $6,880. The state has not set the rate for the coming school year.
For the purposes of discussion, the districts have added 3 percent to those figures, which will be adjusted when the state’s official figures come out later this year, he said.
The contract also allows Bucksport to assess costs to the SAD towns for students enrolled in other programs such as special education and cooperative education.
The agreement benefits both the SAD and the Bucksport School Department, according to Curtis.
“The economies of scale grow with the increased numbers in a school district,” he said. “The cost to operate small schools in the SAD would be prohibitive. But this also reduces the per pupil costs for Bucksport.”
With a long-term contract, he said, those enrollment numbers are predictable and can help the school department in its long-term planning, particularly in securing state funding for building projects.
“Those numbers were vital to the science and technology addition at the high school and the new middle school,” Curtis said. “We were able to use those [enrollment] numbers in our calculations.”
The ballot question in both towns asks voters if they will authorized the SAD board of directors to enter into the exclusive contract with the Bucksport School Department.
Although the directors from both school districts have recommended approval, the directors cannot approve the contract unless authorized to do so by the voters, Curtis said.