Tremont school bursting at the seams

TREMONT — Work space in the library is a precious commodity at the school here, shared between library arts, technology/computer integration and health, as is space in the resource room and many classrooms.

“We’re kind of bursting at the seams,” Principal Jandrea True said.

“We are reaching a limit to what we’re able to provide and how we’re able to provide because of our space … This year, there are some significant challenges we’ve needed to address in come creative ways.”

During a school committee meeting in October, True said the school was looking for another table for the kindergarten through fourth grade lunch because there were not enough seats for kids to eat at that time. There is enough table space during the fifth through eighth grade lunch period.

“We’ve outgrown the tables we have available to us,” said True, who has even been sharing her office space this year for needed services.

“Last year we had to expand our stage, which cut down on our other space.”

She is referring to an increase in music participation for the spring concert, which reduced the room for those coming to show their support.

Anyone who has attended a holiday concert or an event for the entire student body in the last few years knows to get to the school early for a seat, as most occasions end up being standing room only.

“This community rallies around these kids,” True added. “It’s a great problem to have.”

School committee members are aware of the space constraints. Earlier this year, they met with a representative from Sealander Architects in Ellsworth to find out, given the current and future needs of the students, what it would cost to do a study of the school’s building and space needs.

At that time, committee members decided it was cost prohibitive to do the report. Because of the expense, the committee would likely need to put that work out to bid.

While the school population has been growing in the last few years, the main reason for the lack of space Lawson sees in the building is government requirements for students, such as separate spaces for special education and mental health services.

“What we’re required to offer now is completely out of our control,” said Lawson. “We are very grateful to have a staff that is so understanding and so accommodating.”

Tremont Consolidated School is a three-section building. The original school was built in the 1950s and the community building was constructed about a decade later. In 1999, the two were connected and several more classrooms were added.

“I don’t think schools built in the 50s were meant to house occupational therapists, counselors, tech integration,” said True, naming a few of the requirements schools have added in the last 60 years. She also referred to the “variety of services intended to meet [the] emotional, academic and social needs of our kids.”

Other schools have opted for temporary buildings on their campuses to accommodate growing needs in the student population. This is not a popular option with Lawson and the other committee members.

“We don’t want to see a whole lot of pop-up trailers,” she said. “If something’s going to be done, we want to do it right … This school’s going to be around a long time.”

Discussions about an island-wide middle school have recently been building steam, but even moving two grades to a different building may not completely address the issue.

“Seeing the space that we have, that middle school would not solve much,” said Lawson. “It would open two classrooms that would get filled fast.”

According to a recent joint presentation to school committees for Pemetic Elementary and Tremont Consolidated schools for a proposed Pre-K program, the Pre-K classroom for four-year-olds from both communities would be in Southwest Harbor .

True told the two boards at the meeting that Tremont just doesn’t have the space for a Pre-K classroom.

“This has been something evolving for some time,” she said from Tremont recently. “We want to be pro-active. We want to be able to move forward without having to backtrack.

“The kids in this school and community deserve to continue to have quality education,” she added.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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