SAD 6 won't close Steep Falls school

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STANDISH — SAD 6 has decided not to close Steep Falls Elementary School after weeks of discussion, but the superintendent said sometime in the near future there is a possibility of consolidating Standish’s three elementary schools.

In a letter posted on the SAD 6 central office blog Feb. 27, Superintendent Paul Penna wrote that he had “reconsidered the decision to close Steep Falls Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year.” 

The district had been considering the closure of the 103-student school to cut costs.

Penna said in an interview that the district had to take the desires of the community into account. 

“There are kids involved and families involved that have a whole network of history with this (school). Dollar savings are one thing for people, but this is a people business,” he said. 

Penna said in an earlier interview that the district was working to cut $1.5 million from its budget. Now, he said, “we’re not going to address the need to that level. It’s going to be less than $1.5 million.”

The district is receiving $1.14 million of funding from the state, which, Penna wrote in the letter, “does provide an opportunity to reconsider and delay some of the budget decisions without the burden of significant tax increases to our communities.” 

SAD 6 will work on decreasing its baseline budget to make it more affordable, Penna said. This will involve lowering the budget for personnel “without affecting our services for our students.” 

The district is also considering consolidating the Standish schools — Edna Libby School, George E Jack School and Steep Falls School — in a new building at some point, Penna said. Consolidation of schools is “how you actually save money.”

That process will take place “in another year or when we’re ready for that transition,” he explained. 

Penna encouraged community members to get involved with the ongoing budget process. 

As he wrote in his letter, “I have appreciated how the Steep Falls community has responded during the budget discussions, and this emphasizes the importance of a budget process being transparent to stakeholders. Dialogue with the administrators, school board and community members is important throughout the budget development process.” 

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com. 

The district has decided it will not close Steep Falls Elementary School. 

Steep Falls has 103 students.