TREMONT — Pre-K and two additional teachers for the 2021-22 school year are part of the proposed FY22 school budget for Tremont Consolidated School.
Principal Jandrea True went before the Board of Selectmen during their meeting on Feb. 16 to present the draft budget.
“Overall, without additional items, there is very little change in this budget,” she said, before highlighting the pre-K program as an additional item. “We do really believe that is a valuable program and we want to move forward with that.”
With the pre-K program, an additional special education teacher and another teacher for the third– and fourth–grade classrooms, the budget would increase 8.5 percent. That would equate to a 6 percent increase in the town appropriation, which comes out to an additional $33.65 per $100,000 of property value.
Before town officials signed off on the FY21 budget last spring, the pre-K program was removed in anticipation of difficult economic times due to the pandemic. This year, upon the encouragement of Town Manager Chris Saunders to add it back into the budget, the proposed program cost is $85,000, about $6,000 more than it was in the FY21 budget. It is listed higher to cover any increase in healthcare and benefits for the two staff members slated to be hired for the program.
Four–year–old students from Tremont and Southwest Harbor would be served by the proposed pre–K program. Students from Tremont would be bussed to Pemetic Elementary School where there is an extra classroom available. One town’s students would attend for one half of the day, while the other town’s students would attend for the other half. Details are still being worked out.
As for hiring two more staff members, Selectman Kevin Buck asked if there would be enough room at the school.
“Space is a significant issue, and something is going to have to give,” said True in response. “I don’t have any empty space in the building that’s not being used right now. We’ve gotten really creative this year.”
Members of the Tremont School Committee are working on forming a subcommittee to explore options for the future of the school to address the lack of space problem.
“Do you see Tremont School needing an expansion in the future?” Selectman Mike Mansolilli asked during the presentation.
“Yes, Tremont School is thriving under Jandrea’s leadership,” Superintendent Marc Gousse said in response. “All indicators are that school will grow. Planning for that growth now is really thoughtful.”
True has been told there are students coming into the school next school year with the need for special education services. In the budget, she is proposing adding a qualified special education teacher instead of two ed techs for a couple of reasons. One, the higher–qualified teacher will be able to authorize instructional needs for the students and, two, the price is lower than hiring two people.
“We continue to have kids come into our building with unique needs,” she said during the school committee meeting in January. “We are right on the tipping point of not having enough space to provide the instruction… The pandemic has continued to highlight everything for me.”