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4/23/2014 2:00:00 PM
WHS Tour Reveals Concerns With Moving Middle School Students
Wiscasset High School senior Briana Goud. (Kathy Onorato photo, LCN file)
Wiscasset High School senior Briana Goud. (Kathy Onorato photo, LCN file)
By Kathy Onorato

The Wiscasset School Board has began looking into the feasibility of closing the Wiscasset Middle School, which would send some students to the high school and the others to the primary school.

Closing one of the town's three school facilities, and the resulting potential for cost savings, has long been a point of contention during the town's withdrawal process from RSU 12.

Following a tour of Wiscasset High School April 16, the school board and Interim Superintendent Wayne Dorr identified some potential issues that need to be addressed before Wiscasset's seventh and eighth grades can be moved to the high school.

In an email to school board members Dorr wrote "We may need to construct some form of a Plan B if our current thinking proves to be too costly."

According to Dorr, one of the more costly items suggested is the replacement of the science lab on the first floor. The replacement would require relocating gas lines and creating a safety shower, the email states.

Other concerns the email suggest include: moving the schools' technology servers; scheduling use of the school's library, cafeteria and gymnasium; moving special education class areas; using one of the current art classrooms for regular class instruction; purchasing a screen to separate high school and middle school gym classes; the need to move the adult education for classroom space; sharing the facilities for athletic programs; and re-programming the bell system to accommodate two different schedules.

Admitting the process and adjustment won't be easy or perfect, school board member Eugene Stover said the move could be done without spending a lot of money to make it happen. "This is an attempt to scare people," he said in a phone interview April 22.

Stover said it is important to keep middle school and high school students separate as much as possible, but the two student bodies can share some services.

"Students can certainly be in the library at the same time. They ride on the same buses," Stover said.

Stover said the science lab has been in need of upgrading for several years. He said nothing has been done to it all since the school opened in 1961.

"It's a great opportunity to upgrade the lab, which is long overdue," Stover said.

According to Dorr, space will also be needed for the middle school's administration office.

"Of course there is the belief by some that the current high school administration could simply assume all of those additional responsibilities," Dorr said in the email.

Board Member Sharon Nichols said April 22 she opposes having two separate principals at school. "It's not necessary," Nichols said.

The enrollment at Wiscasset High School will only increase by 80 students, bringing the total enrollment to about 250 students. Nichols said the enrollment at the high school was at one time over 400. Nichols suggest hiring one principal and a full-time vice-principal to handle the discipline.

"The consolidation plan should also be about consolidating staff and services as well as space," Nichols said.

Nichols, who will resign effective June 10, has cited the board's unwillingness to present a two-school budget for the upcoming school year as her reason for resigning.

Some students at Wiscasset High School support the two-school option for Wiscasset including seniors Sarah Hanley and Briana Goud.

Hanley said it was good for Wiscasset to get out of RSU 12, but in her opinion, the town needs to overcome the transition, which may mean closing a school, she said.

"We use to have a lot more kids in the school than we do now.," Hanley said. Closing a school will help reduce the budget she said.

Goud said the partnership with RSU 12 was a failed attempt. She said levels of hate and discontent arose over being forced to change WHS's mascot.

"It's good we got out, because Wiscasset has regained local control," said Goud

Goud said an increase in taxes is not what residents want and she too said it is time to close a school, but in her opinion the Wiscasset Primary School should close. She said the Wiscasset Primary School is a more marketable property, as it is located near the Wiscasset Community Center, Senior Center and the Morris Farm, which might attract an elderly housing complex.

Goud's young brother Brandon agrees with his sister: the Wiscasset Middle School should stay open because it is on the water and already has athletic fields which could be used for middle school sports rather than try to share the high school facilities.

He said with the board's decision not to close a school this year many parents are concern about the predicted tax increase. He said raising taxes that much will make it hard for people to stay in town

"Kids and teachers are leaving. It's tearing the town apart," he said.

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