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Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 10, 2014
No room at Adams School for child daycare

by Anne Berleant

The idea of placing a childcare facility in Adams School was quickly dismissed by the school board and superintendent at a July 2 meeting over concerns about space, state regulations and facilities.

“We are pressed for space,” Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said. “We barely have facilities for four-year-olds.”

A letter sent to the board from Nancy Sayre, a member of a citizen group working to establish an early education center, asked the board to discuss the possibility, given the school’s declining enrollment.

“If young families are not attracted to live in Castine, the population…will continue to decline and so will the enrollment at Adams School. Early education and care and public education are linked,” wrote Sayre. “The school could become an educational center for all children of Castine.”

With Castine Community Child Development Center, aka Otter House, closing on August 29 because of financial reasons, the town will be without early childhood care. Otter House serves children 9 months old and older with all-day or after-school care.

But the board, which is currently exploring ways to increase its enrollment, such as allowing children of Maine Maritime Academy employees to enroll, found no favor with Sayre’s proposal.

“We don’t have the facilities within this building to accommodate that age range,” said Chairman Kathy MacArthur. “We don’t fit any [state] regulations.”

A decrease in Adams School enrollment doesn’t equal extra space, board member Temple Blackwood pointed out. “There may be three or four in a classroom, [and] we’d like to have eight or nine, but it still uses a classroom.”

“My advice is that we don’t go down that road,” said Hurvitt.

In other business, board member Joe Spinazola outlined the need for a transfer of $107,000 in carry-forward funds to pay for retirement costs, made clear by a recent audit.

“Our carry-forward is a negative number now,” said Spinazola, resulting from a change in the fiscal year and a difference in how the school and the auditors account for funds left in the budget at the end of the fiscal year, called “carry-forward.”

The town is holding $270,000 of school money to cover accrual of salaries and retirement costs, but a special town meeting is needed to move the funds. The transfer would cover $40,000 in retirement costs and leave around $60,000 carry-forward in the 2014-15 budget.

“The money is there. We just have to move it,” said Hurvitt. “[And] we have to distill this into an explainable warrant article.”

Finally, a change in teacher evaluations required by state mandate has prompted a union-wide effort to devise and implement new policies. A committee formed of teachers and administrators from the Brooksville, Blue Hill, Castine, Penobscot and Surry schools has agreed on an evaluation model, to be piloted in 2014-15. Pre-K/kindergarten teacher Tracy Lameyer represents Castine on the committee.

“We want you to be on the same page as every other town,” said Hurvitt, asking board members to read the evaluation template, adapted from the Lewiston school district, with a vote to approve set for August. The schools will share professional development on using the template—and its $10,000 cost, to be covered by a small rural school grant disbursed from federal education funds.

“We weren’t planning on spending [the grant money] on this,” said Hurvitt. “These things come with a huge price tag.”

Upcoming meeting

Thursday, August 7, 4 p.m.,

Adams School