School Board member Peter Bealo was quoted in today’s Eagle Tribune as saying that closing Sandown Central was a “no-brainer,” because the “economics are unassailable.” Well, hold on to your seats because Cathy Gorman, Timberlane Budget Committee member from Sandown, has just assailed them and good.
Ms. Gorman has examined the administration’s recently discovered fact that the building cost per pupil of running Sandown Central far outstrips the costs of running other elementary schools in the district by $1,400 from the next most expensive school. In order to close Sandown Central and squeeze its students into Sandown North, the four current Fourth Grade classes and the four Fifth Grade classes would be consolidated into three classes for each grade at Sandown North.
With that piece of information, Ms. Gorman decided to see what the building cost per pupil would be at Sandown Central if it were to stay open with two fewer teachers (because the classes had been consolidated). What do you think she discovered?
With two fewer teachers at Sandown Central, the building cost per pupil comes down $1100 and becomes just $286 more than the next most costly school. (See Table 2) Is this the sort of savings that is worth closing a school for and displacing so many special education students? The administration says this closure will affect only those students in Sandown Central but, in fact, the closure will effect every elementary school in the district with the reassignment of special education services.
The analysis isn’t over yet. Our intrepid Ms. Gorman didn’t stop there. The consolidation plan also calls for another class consolidation of Grade 2 at Sandown North with the resulting loss of a teacher. Ms. Gorman figured that if three teachers were cut from both schools and the cost of running both schools was combined and divided by the total number of students, then the combined cost of running both schools turns out to be less than the cost of running Danville! (See Table 3a)
Ms. Gorman’s tables and arguments are here: SC CPP analysis V4 (This is corrected version from what was posted on 1/6/15)
Ms. Gorman intends to present this revealing information at the next Sandown Board of Selectmen meeting as well as at the budget public hearing (Jan. 15th) and the school deliberative meeting.
What she has exposed is that the closing of Sandown Central is far from a no-brainer based on unassailable numbers. By the school board’s own policies, no school should be closed until a formal study has been conducted and presented to the school board. So far all we’ve gotten are assurances and nothing on paper let alone something amounting to a plan. The superintendent says the school board has to vote to close the school, then we’ll get the plan. According to the Eagle Tribune, a vote is expected to close the school at this Thursday’s school board meeting. You will note that no mention of a vote to close the school is on the published agenda. And I have been denied access to the Sandown schools during operational hours so I cannot see them with children to judge for myself how crowded Sandown North is currently. This is the respect shown for the importance of this decision to our community.