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January 07. 2013 11:05PM

Claremont schools meeting to focus on bond, budget

CLAREMONT - A hearing for a $17 million bond to improve Stevens High School and the finalized school district budget are planned for Wednesday night.

The Claremont School Board bond hearing is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. at the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center. The school board and the public will first be presented with the results of a feasibility study by Banwell Architects for a Stevens High School building renovation, said Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin.

After the presentation, the school board will decide whether or not to move forward with placing the bond article on the March Annual Meeting warrant, he said. Then a budget hearing that started last week will continue.

Last week, a proposed 3.29 percent or $930,000 increase from this fiscal year's $28,532,205 budget to a was presented. McGoodwin said because collective bargaining negotiations had not been completed, the budget was not finalized. A finalized budget will be presented Wednesday in which there will be an increase in the proposed budget from last year, he said, adding that the district is working to reduce the cost of the proposed budget.

"It is still being worked on. I would say that we're 95 percent there," he said Monday.

Health insurance, special education, instructional technology and support, behavioral issues and contribution to the state retirement system are the as the main factors pushing the budget up this year, he said.

"We're very sensitive that the impact that the school budget has on the taxpayers," he said. "But we are still obligated to meet the needs of the specific school populations."

Many of the factors driving the budget up cannot be cut, he said, including meeting the mental health needs of a small but very important student population.

"This is not about Claremont. This is a national issue. Recent data has indicated in our nation there are 17 and a half million children that have mental health issues," McGoodwin said. "According to the National Mental Health Association fewer than one in five of the 17.5 million children in need of mental health services actually receive them."

It is a problem that has always been there but the frequency and need has increased over recent years, he said. McGoodwin said he is speaking predominantly about the needs of elementary and middle school students.

"We have some school principals that are spending half of their weeks dealing with these populations," he said.

Part of the growing problem is the cuts since the 2008 economic crash in federal and state programs that once helped this population, he said, but other factors are in play.

"There's not a simple answer. There are a lot of variables involved," he said. "Forty years ago, you had a different culture than you had today. The world that we live in today is very different than we lived in decades ago. Society is different. The family is different."

mpierce@newstote.com


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