Administrative officials in Regional School Unit 20 outlined several potential scenarios to consolidate the district in an effort to rein in increasing educational costs.

The proposals, which are posted on RSU 20's website, begin with three steps that the district must take, which include, restructuring the organization, finding alternative ways to fund education and review/revise the building level budget development process.

As stated in the reorganization document, the district is looking at a potential reorganization due to a number of factors, which include declining student enrollments; reduced state funding and increasing property taxes, finding ways to maximize the use of its facilities; reducing operational costs; moving closer to the essential program and services funding model; and a desire to review and reduce human resource requirements.

There are a total of 2,338 students in the district, according to the reorganization documents. A  breakdown of the student population shows that Ames Elementary is at 83 percent of capacity; Belfast Area High School is at 69 percent of capacity; Captain Albert Stevens School is at 103 percent of capacity; East Belfast Elementary is at 82 percent of capacity; Edna Drinkwater Elementary is at 70 percent of capacity; Kermit Nickerson Elementary is at 61 percent of capacity; Searsport High School and Middle School is at 45 percent of capacity; Searsport Elementary School is at 75 percent of capacity; Stockton Springs Elementary is at 21 percent of capacity; Troy Howard Middle School is at 83 of percent; and Gladys Weymouth Elementary is at 94 percent of capacity.

Per student costs at each of the schools ranged from a low of $4,713 at Ames to a high of $17,559 at Searsport High School, according to the reorganization plan proposal.

According to first proposed course of action for reorganizing the district, Troy Howard Middle School would educate students in grades 3-6; Ames, CASS and East Belfast would educate students in grades Pre-K through second; and Belfast Area High School would educate students in grades 7-12.

Drinkwater, Nickerson and Weymouth would be closed and students at Drinkwater in grades Pre-K through second would attend CASS. Drinkwater students in grades 3-5 would attend Troy Howard Middle School and students at CASS in grades 3-5 would attend Troy Howard Middle School, too.

Weymouth students in grades Pre-K through first would attend Ames, while students in grades 3-5 at Ames would attend Troy Howard Middle School. Students at Nickerson in kindergarten through second grade would attend East Belfast Elementary and students in grades 3-5 at Nickerson would attend Troy Howard Middle School.

Students in grades 7-8 at Troy Howard would be go to Belfast Area High School.

The advantages of such a scenario as outlined by the reorganization proposal are reduced costs per pupil; reduced operational and personnel costs; increased collaboration among teachers at each grade level; increased educational offerings for students; and limited construction requirements.

Other advantages include the centralization of services; that younger students can stay closer to home; a maximized use of available space; reduced grade/building transitions; and greater teacher choice for students.

The disadvantages of the proposal are that the district would lose a community school; class sizes would increase; students and parents would have to adjust to a larger facility; there would be a negative impact in the community where a school is closed; and some students would have longer travel times.

Other drawbacks outlined in the proposal indicate there would be crowding in the common areas of the high school; the “nurturing, secure and intimate feeling,” at the elementary school may be lost; and having grades 7-12 at the high school may negatively impact middle school students' future success.

Course of Action No. 2

The second proposal for consolidation calls for Troy Howard to educate students in grades 4-6; Ames, CASS and East Belfast to educate students in grades Pre-K through third; and for the district to create a school-within-a-school at Belfast Area High School for students in grades 7-9; and for high school to educate students in grades 10-12.

The advantages of such are model are similar to the first proposed scenario with the opportunity for a “varied high school experience.”

Much like the first reorganization proposal, the disadvantages include larger class sizes, the loss of a community school and longer travel times for some students.

Course of Action No. 3

The third reorganization proposal indicates the district would establish a regional middle school for students in grades 5-8; a regional high school for students in grades 9-12; and three regional elementary schools for students in grades Pre-K through fourth.

The three regional elementary schools would be Ames, CASS and Searsport Elementary School.

Establishing three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school would result in Drinkwater, East Belfast, Nickerson and Weymouth being closed, as well as Searsport High School and Middle School.

Students in grades 9-12 at Searsport High School would go to to BAHS and students in grades 6-8 at Searsport Middle School would go to Troy Howard. Students at Searsport Elementary in grade five would also go to Troy Howard.

Drinkwater students in grades Pre-K through fourth would go to to CASS and students at Drinkwater in grade five would go to Troy Howard. Students in grades five at CASS and Ames would go to Troy Howard.

Finally, students in kindergarten through fourth at Nickerson and students in Pre-K through fourth at East Belfast would go to to Searsport Elementary School.

The advantages of option three are the same as the first two proposals with the addition of the district being able to create one schedule for students.

As far as disadvantages for the proposal are concerned, the majority of the drawbacks mirror those outlined in the first two proposals. However, there are a few additional disadvantages; that the high school and athletic teams would need to be renamed and that there would be fewer opportunities for students to participate in team sports.

Course of Action No. 4

Students at Nickerson and East Belfast would attend school at Searsport Elementary School and Searsport High School/Middle School.

Troy Howard would educate students in grades 5-8; CASS and Ames would educate students in grades Pre-K through 4; and BAHS would educate students in grades 9-12.

Drinkwater, East Belfast, Nickerson and Weymouth would be closed. Students in grade 5 at Searsport Elementary School would go to to Troy Howard. Students at Drinkwater in Pre-K through fourth grade would go to CASS, while students at Drinkwater in grade five would go to Troy Howard along with fifth grade students from CASS.

Weymouth students Pre-K to fourth grade would go to Ames and students in fifth grade at Ames would go to Troy Howard. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade at Nickerson and students in Pre-K through fourth grade would go to Searsport Elementary School.

Fifth grade students at Nickerson and East Belfast would attend school at Searsport Middle School.

The advantages of such a reorganization are the same as those for the first two proposals, as are the disadvantages.

Course of Action No. 5

The fifth reorganization proposal indicates the district would keep the Belfast and Searsport high schools open, while Troy Howard would educate students in grades 5-8. Ames and CASS would educate students Pre-K through fourth grade.

Students in East Belfast and at Nickerson would attend school at Searsport Elementary and Searsport High/Middle School.

The Belfast high school would educate students in grades 9-12.

Drinkwater, East Belfast, Nickerson and Weymouth would be closed. Students at Drinkwater in Pre-K through fourth grade would go to CASS, while students at Drinkwater in grade five would go to Troy Howard along with fifth grade students from CASS.

Grade five students at Searsport Elementary School would go to Troy Howard.

Weymouth students in Pre-K to first grade would go to Ames, while students in grade five at Ames would go to Troy Howard.

Students in kindergarten through fourth grade at Nickerson and students in Pre-K through fourth grade would go to Searsport Elementary School.

Fifth grade students at Nickerson and East Belfast would attend school at Searsport Middle School.

The advantages and disadvantages of the fifth reorganization proposal are the same as the first three reorganization proposals.

Course of Action No. 6

The sixth proposal again addresses the idea of having a regional middle school and regional high school. The regional middle school would educate students in grades 6-8 and the regional high school would educate students in grades 9-12.

Students at East Belfast and Nickerson would attend school at Searsport Elementary. The remainder of the elementary schools would stay open, the proposal indicates.

As a result, East Belfast and Nickerson would be closed, as well as Searsport High School/Middle School.

Students at Nickerson in K-5 would go to Searsport Elementary School and students at East Belfast Pre-K through fifth grade would go to Searsport Elementary School. Searsport Middle School students in grades 6-8 would go to Troy Howard and students at Searsport High School in grades 9-12 would go to BAHS.

Once again, the district would save money while also maximizing the available space in its facilities. Proposal No. 6 does note that there would be greater student interaction as a result of the proposed reorganization.

The disadvantages deal mainly with crowding in common areas at BAHS, longer travel time for some students and reduced opportunities for students to participate on athletic teams.

Course of Action No. 7

Troy Howard would educate students in grades 5-8; CASS, East Belfast and Ames would educate students in K-4; and BAHS would educate students in grades 9-12.

Drinkwater, Nickerson and Weymouth would be closed. Students in K-4 at Drinkwater would go to CASS. Students in fifth grade at CASS, Drinkwater and Ames would attend school at Troy Howard.

Weymouth students Pre-K to 1 would go to Ames; Nickerson students grades K-4 would go to East Belfast; and fifth grade students at Nickerson would go to Troy Howard.

In terms of the advantages of proposal No. 7, they deal mainly with cost savings, centralization of services and increased course offerings for students.

There are two significant disadvantages to proposal No. 7 that were not issues in the other six possible reorganization scenarios. The first issue is that the district would need to construct additional space or acquire portable classrooms.

Secondly, Pre-Kindergarten and kindergarten classes would be eliminated from the elementary schools.

Superintendent Brian Carpenter said he developed the proposals at the request of the board of directors to look at ways to continue to provide a quality education to students without overly burdening taxpayers.

Carpenter said board members have copies of the proposals and the next step will be for them to choose a few of the reorganization options to explore. He said once the board narrows its focus to a few of the proposals, he will do more detailed cost savings analyses.

"I'm not wed to any of them," Carpenter said of the seven proposals he has put forth.

Carpenter did note that the district is in the exploratory phase for a potential reorganization at this time.

"The board is going to have to make some tough decisions," he said.

A copy of the reorganization proposals can be found at rsu20.org.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.