The shared programs of AOS 93 might be receiving a revamp in the near future.
At the AOS 93 Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11, Superintendent Steve Bailey presented a plan that could make it easier for schools in the towns of Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Jefferson, Newcastle, Nobleboro, and South Bristol to use three shared programs: the Alternative Classroom for Educational Services, Center for Alternative Learning, and Pathways Education Center.
The Alternative Classroom for Educational Services provides behavioral support in a student’s special education learning plan in addition to an academic program to help students succeed in the school system. The Alternative Classroom for Educational Services is based at Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta.
The Center for Alternative Learning, based in Nobleboro Central School, provides opportunities for students in grades six through eight who have a learning style that may have caused them to struggle in a regular classroom.
The Pathways Education Center in Jefferson Village School teaches a life skills curriculum in addition to academic programs.
Bailey’s recent presentation to the AOS 93 Board followed the Great Salt Bay School Committee announcing it intended not to use the programs in the 2016-2017 school year. The decision was voted on at the June meeting.
“They voted that they had intent not to participate, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be,” Bailey said. “Between now and then they wanted an opportunity to take a look at what their options were.”
Under the current system, each school in AOS 93 pays a percentage of the local cost of the Center for Alternative Learning and Pathways budgets based on the total population of students in the district, regardless of how many of these students use the program.
The Alternative Classroom for Educational Services is included in the Great Salt Bay budget, but the Pathways and Center for Alternative Learning programs are part of a fiscal agent account administered by AOS 93. Bailey said what Great Salt Bay paid for Pathways and the Center for Alternative Learning had been in the 42-44 percent range of the local cost for the programs.
Bailey’s proposal would be an alternate way to fund each program not based on the school’s total population, but rather the percentage of students using the program. Each school would pay a foundational fee to use the program, which would include a specific amount of seats. The schools with more students in need of the programs would share an extra cost.
“We would try to look at it from who is using the programs and the number of students they have involved,” Bailey said.
The “a la carte” approach to the programs, as Bailey called it, would allow each school to choose which of the three programs they wanted to be a part of based on the needs of the students. Under the agreement, the schools would also have written agreements to know what their obligations and responsibilities are within the program.
The possible switch was also discussed at the Great Salt Bay School Committee meeting on Aug. 12. If Great Salt Bay decided to continue to participate in the shared programs, the Alternative Classroom for Educational Services program would be converted to an AOS program, and the item could be removed from the school’s budget.
“We may look at this and say it sounds pretty attractive, but we won’t know that we can do it until we know what the other schools say they can do,” said school committee member Bill Thomas.
The Great Salt Bay School Committee has tentatively planned to meet on Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. to discuss the proposal.
Bailey intends to discuss the program with the other schools in AOS 93 during the September school committee meetings. Although this plan, if passed, would not take effect until the 2016-2017 school year, decisions would need to be made before the second Tuesday in December to allow AOS 93 to prepare its budget.
“We’re still early in the discussion stages now,” Bailey said. “It is a complicated and layered issue.”