Enrollment bubble bursts



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The need to hire a half-time teacher because of a large number of first-grade students at the Pemetic Elementary School is no longer an issue, according to the school’s principal.

“We lost some kids in that very grade I was worried about,” Cathy Lewis said Monday.

The school committee here approved the hiring of a half-time teacher at their Oct. 12 meeting after learning enrollment in the first grade had climbed to 23 students. Since then, Lewis said, the number has dropped to 18.

However, some of the savings are offset by the hiring of a one-on-one special education aide, which was an unanticipated need, Lewis said.

Schools, by state law, are obligated to provide special services for students who need them. The state, in handing down this mandate, agreed to pay the cost but, as school officials have been quick to note, has not followed through on that promise, leaving the cost to be borne by property tax payers.

Lewis said hiring another one-on-one special education aide is to be considered this week by the school committee. Again, this is a need that wasn’t expected when the budget for the school year was prepared.

Lewis is quick to point out that school officials don’t make these decisions arbitrarily.

“I always have in mind the taxpayer is taking money from his pocket, and that needs to be respected,” she said. “You have to make sure the students are taken care of with least impact to the taxpayer.”

There are about 146 students in the school this year, Lewis said.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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