In the face of dismal forecasts from the Maine Department of Education, Maine School Administrative District 3 is preparing for the worst, including the possibility of closing a school.

The school board is scheduled to discuss school closure at a Tuesday, Sept. 7, meeting. But any decisions are a long way off, according to Superintendent Heather Perry, who said Aug. 27 that the meeting is just the beginning of a long process that will allow for much public input.

“When I came on board in July, it was made very clear to me that one of my first tasks was to ensure that the SAD 3 board has a thorough conversation around the possibility of closing an elementary school in the district, and that if it becomes something they choose to do, to go ahead and make that process happen,” she said. “It’s kind of a two-step thing.”

Perry said the recent passage of the federal jobs bill and fluctuating state revenue projections have made it unclear what kind of shortfall the district may face in 2011-12. In July state officials recommended $100 million in budget cuts, she said; more recently, that figure has dropped to $23 million.

“Our hope is that while we research and find out the figures, that things at the state and federal level will clarify over the course of this year and we’ll have a much better fiscal picture,” she said.

Perry recently learned that MSAD 3 would receive $229,000 from the federal jobs bill passed earlier this month. Unlike the federal stimulus money the district has received in the past, money from the jobs bill must be used to hire or rehire school staff, in positions ranging from administrators and teachers to a wide range of support staff, including therapists, social workers, athletic coaches, security officers, custodians and bus drivers, among others.

“We cannot use these funds for supplies, we cannot use these funds for construction, we cannot use these funds for contracted services,” said Perry. “These funds are specifically geared toward hiring and replacing of jobs that were cut.”

Perry said an administrative team would discuss how to use the money and draft a plan, which the group would then present to the school board in September or October.

The federal funds may be spent any time before Sept. 30, 2012. The two-year window came as a relief to local administrators, who previously had worried that they would be forced to revise the current year’s budget to include jobs for which funding might not be available in a year.

On the possibility of a school closing, Perry cautioned that the Sept. 7 meeting is just the beginning of the conversation.

“We’re not going to rush into this because we think the sky is falling, budgetarily-speaking,” she said. “What we want to do is take our time, have a thorough discussion and be prepared if we feel this is something, fiscally and educationally-speaking, we need to do.”

The special MSAD 3 board meeting to discuss a possible elementary school closing is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m., Sept. 7, at the Mount View High School Library. 577 Mount View Road, Thorndike. The meeting is open to the public.