Monday, April 1, 2013

RSU 14 seeks volunteers to ease school crowding by Leah Hoenen

Windham Primary School is at capacity, while its sister school in Raymond is about half-full. District officials have reached out to Windham parents, asking if they would volunteer to send their children to Raymond Elementary School to ease crowding at Windham Primary.

So far, the district has not seen much interest in the plan.

Superintendent Sandy Prince sent a letter to parents in mid-March, suggesting the district could create consolidated stops, possibly along Route 302 in Windham or on the Windham/Raymond town line, where students could catch the bus to Raymond Elementary School.

“The challenge is that it’s not on the way to Portland, so parents could drop off on their way to work,” he said.

Windham Primary School now houses 130 students more than it was intended to hold when it was built 20 years ago, Prince said. “We know on paper we are over capacity – there is no more additional space to use,” he said. There are enough classrooms now, but the district has made office space out of closets.

“We are watching enrollment carefully. We have another school that can take more students, so we are looking at creative ways to get them up there,” he said.

The plan was briefly discussed at the Board of Directors workshop meeting Wednesday, March 20. Board Chairman Catriona Sangster and Transportation Director Mike Kelly confirmed the students would be transported from Windham to Raymond by an existing bus on its regular route.

Kelly said he and Prince discussed the cost of the proposal, which would range from $25,000 for a van to $35,000 for a bus.

“The existing fleet that I have today cannot accommodate this,” he said. The district has no wiggle room on buses, he said.

Kelly said there is no transportation plan in place yet, because the district is still trying to measure community interest. Cost would vary depending on the level of participation, he said.

Prince said if enough families decide to have their children attend school in Raymond, the district would ask the board for funding.

But, he said, “At this point, we are not seeing interest.”

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