November 13, 2012

In SAD 13, closing Quimby Middle School the most popular option

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BINGHAM -- Almost half of the school district residents who returned a recent survey about restructuring said they favor closing Quimby Middle School.

Survey results

In late October, Bingham-based School Administrative District 13 sent the survey to about 900 district addresses. According to school board president Brian Malloy, 199 -- about 22 percent -- were completed. A breakdown of the responses:

Favored by 91: Close Quimby Middle School. Move grades five through eight into the high school building. Estimated initial cost: $20,000-$40,000. Estimated annual savings: $75,000-$90,000.

Favored by 47: Keep all schools open at same operating cost.

Favored by 45: Combine Moscow Elementary School and Quimby Middle School in the high school building, close Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School and send high school students out of district. Estimated initial cost: $70,000-$90,000. Estimated annual savings: $280,000-$320,000.

Favored by 16: Close Moscow Elementary School. Move pre-kindergarten to grade four into the Quimby building and move grades five through eight into the high school. Estimated initial cost: $35,000-$55,000. Estimated annual savings: $90,000-$110,000.

Bingham-based School Administrative District 13 sent the survey to about 900 district addresses in late October, and 199, or about 22 percent, were completed, according to school board president Brian Malloy.

Residents were asked to choose among four options: combine the Quimby school and Moscow Elementary School in the high school building, close the Moscow school, close the Quimby school or keep all schools open.

Malloy said that 91 out of the 199 surveys, or almost half of those returned, were in favor of closing the Quimby school.

"The district has been talking about closing Quimby for quite a while so I don't think it's a surprise," he said.

Forty-seven surveys favored keeping all schools open, while 45 favored combining Moscow and Quimby and 16 favored closing Moscow.

The survey also listed the estimated initial cost and savings associated with each option, although Malloy said the district is still waiting for exact financial figures to come from a state Department of Education analysis.

"The next step currently in the process is having the cost savings analysis from the state. Once we get those results we will move from there," he said.

Malloy said the district should have the cost analysis by December and that the school board will probably discuss the restructuring plans more in depth at the January meeting.

"We are still looking for input from the community and information from the state relevant to what our savings could be," said district Superintendent Virginia Rebar. "When we have collected this variety of input we will come up with a decision."

"I think these numbers are a good glimpse into what people are thinking though," she said.

The district has been discussing the possibility of closing the Quimby school in order to save money and address declining enrollment since 2009. The proposal has been voted on three times by the school board and passed once, in May 2009, but was later overturned.

Malloy said there are a number of reasons he believes the proposal has stalled before the school board.

"A lot of people believe Quimby is part of the identity of the town. It has a lot of history and it's right in the middle of town. Some people believe the town may also see an increase in business because of it being there," he said.

Malloy also said the town of Bingham hasn't said it would take over the building if Quimby closed. Without a buyer, the district would have to continue to heat the building and pay for electricity and insurance, costs that Malloy said would negate savings associated with closing the school.

"There are lots of reasons people are reluctant to close the school, but the other side is the recurring expense," he said.

Malloy also said that about 20 to 25 surveys noted in the comment area that people hoped the economy of the area would improve and that the decision should be deferred for a year or two.

Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com

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