Saturday June 15, 2013

DOVER -- According to a recent review by the Dover School Building Committee, merging seventh- and eighth-graders with the existing classes at Dover School could save the town money.

"Every few years, it's good to revisit this," said Dover School Board Member Rich Werner. "Even though it's been shot down five times."

On June 11, the Dover School Building Committee discussed the possibility of housing seventh- and eighth-graders instead of the town paying an average tuition rate of $14,000 for each student to attend other schools, which include Burr and Burton, Twin Valley High School and the Stratton Mountain School. According to Building Committee Member Chip Vicary, it was roughly estimated that the town could save about $91,000.

Vicary spoke with Dover School Principal Bill Anton and came up with a list of necessary items that would need to be purchased if the school were to house the additional students. The list included 30 desks, lockers, a laptop for each student and new teacher and classroom supplies. There would also need to be a science lab to meet state requirements.

Four teachers with proper teaching certificates would be paid at $60,000 a year. Advertising for the new teaching jobs and professional development experts was accounted for, too.

The state would require a teacher for each of the four subjects of English, math, science and social studies. Payroll would include benefits.

Programs and specialized classed that the older children would be offered as a state requirement include gym, journalism, design, shop, cooking and family living.

Currently, Anton hires program facilitators on a consultant basis. It was mentioned that he could make one of these employees a program director and give the person additional stipends to oversee all the extracurricular activities.

The annual operating costs, which include electric and fuel usage, would not change and Vicary assumed there would be no "build-out."

"We don't have to add on classrooms," said Vicary. Anton told him that he'd prefer a separate wing for the older students if combining the seventh- and eighth-graders with the rest of the Dover School students were to happen.

"(Anton's) feeling is this is surmountable," said Vicary. "We can make this happen."

In Vicary's rough estimates, the annual operating cost would be $89,000. Selectboard member Randy Terk who acts as the liaison between the board and the committee didn't think Vicary missed anything unless there would be building for the separate wing.

"The biggest fight you're going to have is (voters saying) you're doing the students a disservice by keeping them here," said Werner.

The idea of merging the students was voted down at several Town Meetings in the past, but the Building Committee is going to make a recommendation at the next School Board meeting on June 25.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.