Officials to propose Minot Forest Elementary School close due to budget cuts
Wareham school officials will propose closing Minot Forest Elementary to help bridge a $1 million gap in next year's budget.
The closure would cause a massive movement of students. Sources told Wareham Week that fourth-grade students currently attending Minot Forest would be moved to Wareham Middle School, while the younger students would be moved temporarily to "portable" classrooms attached to Decas Elementary.
Officials will discuss various options for cuts at a public hearing scheduled during the School Committee’s Feb. 28 meeting. The hearing will start at 7 p.m. in the Wareham Middle School auditorium.
The district's administration has not released specific information about any proposals, though Business Manager Michael MacMillan confirmed that the Minot Forest Elementary closure is on the table.
“By combining schools, we will realize some savings,” MacMillan said. In combining schools, he said he is looking for a “situation we could live with for a year or two.”
The School Building Committee is currently working on a preliminary design proposal for a new, combined elementary school and has been considering a rebuild of Minot Forest Elementary that would accommodate approximately 1,020 students from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade (currently, Minot Forest Elementary has around 406 students and John W. Decas Elementary has 577).
The district’s draft budget currently calls for spending $29.4 million for the upcoming school year. That figure contrasts with what town officials say is available, due to lackluster revenues. In early February, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan presented a draft budget to Selectmen with $28.4 million allocated for schools.
“We do expect to cut administration, school leadership and teaching positions,” said MacMillan.
No final decisions have been made yet. MacMillan said officials are looking at all areas of spending in the district and all positions are being reviewed.
“These cuts are going to involve everybody,” he said. “Hopefully we can reach this decision as a school community.”
School Committee Chair Judy Caporiccio urged those interested in the finding out more to attend the hearing and offer their input.
"This is a difficult time for all of us, but we must work together, look at all options, listen to parents and stakeholders, and keep in mind that we need to make decisions that are best for the children of Wareham," she said. "We have been telling the public for a number of years that we are in a fiscal crisis."
Assistant principals at Wareham Public Schools have also been told their positions will be eliminated for the coming school year due to the shortfall, sources told Wareham Week.
“Changes in the budget will seriously impact how our district will be operating,” Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood told School Committee members earlier this month. “These potential changes are monumental and will change how education is offered in Wareham.”