Building For Success: The D63 Master Plan
In December 2016, East Maine School District 63 finalized the major components of a Master Plan to address several long-term, ongoing challenges it has been facing. Ultimately, these changes will enable District 63 to better serve its families and the community.
- Shift from a junior high to middle school model at Gemini and serve 6th-8th grade students (as opposed to 7th-8th grade students as it does currently). What's the difference? A junior high is just that: a kind of pre-high school. Classes, learning styles, and curriculum all mirror the high school model. A middle school, conversely, strategically focuses on pre-teens and their specific academic, emotional, social, and physical needs.
- Shift to a full day kindergarten. With more time in the classroom, kindergarten students will benefit from an expanded curriculum that focuses on the whole child - one built around discovery learning and inquiry-based purposeful play.
- Give First Steps Preschool room to grow. Since 2008, the population has almost doubled and now tops 260, with continued growth projected. Currently, First Steps operates at Apollo, Melzer, and Washington Schools. With full day kindergarten in place, our First Steps Preschool needs its own space - and room to grow.
- Redraw elementary school boundaries to better balance the student population.
- Expand the Dual Language Program beyond grades K-4
- Stevenson, Nelson, and Apollo Elementary Schools no longer have adequate capacity for the range of programs they offer, because capacity standards vary based on student, school, and community need.
- Conversely, Washington Elementary is underutilized; enrollment has been steadily decreasing, dropping to approximately 270 students this year.
- As noted above, enrollment in the District’s First Steps Preschool continues to grow. Operating a decentralized preschool is also challenging, and classrooms aren't appropriate for preschoolers.
- With the planned shift to full day kindergarten, space is an issue.
- There is limited space to expand the Dual Language Program.
In July 2015, the District launched a facilities utilization study to assess how best to address these challenges. Specifically, the study detailed options for:
- Relieving the overcrowding.
- Addressing underutilization of Washington.
- Creating space in each elementary school for full day kindergarten.
- Providing room for First Steps Preschool to grow.
- Creating capacity to expand the Dual Language Program.
Based on this study -- and associated potential costs -- the East Maine School District 63 Board of Education will move ahead with the following projects, all of which will create additional space in the District’s elementary schools for full-day kindergarten and an expanded Dual Language Program:
- Adding an addition onto Gemini Junior High, which currently serves grades 7-8, and shifting all District 63 6th grade students to this middle school.
- Constructing a freestanding First Steps Preschool facility on land near the District Office and Apollo Elementary School at Central and Dee.
- Redrawing district boundaries to better distribute the K-5 grade population in the District’s six elementary schools.
Costs and Funding
The Facilities Master Plan will not require additional property tax revenues – and the District will not need to undertake a referendum.The District has adequate funds to cover plan costs, using its existing tax revenue stream and bonds (a standard method of paying for facilities projects) to pay for the work.
- Adding an addition to Gemini to accommodate 6th graders: $33 million
- Construction of a new preschool: $7-$10 million
- Redrawing attendance boundaries: $20,000
- Implementing a full-day kindergarten: an additional $600,000 annually
Timeline (all dates tentative and subject to change)
To date, D63 has:
- Gathered feedback from staff about the design of the Gemini addition.
- Met with parent groups at each school to share the plan and gather feedback.
- Worked with the District's architects to finalize the Gemini addition.
- Kicked off the Gemini Middle School transition design team.
- Gathered feedback on the shift to the Middle School model from staff, students, and parents.
- Conducted site visits with other districts offering full day kindergarten programs.
- Hired DecisionInsite, an enrollment impact consulting firm, to guide the District in redrawing elementary attendance boundaries
- Hired Susan Kempton, an expert in purposeful play and discovery learning, to help guide the District through the transition to full-day kindergarten.
- Held parent/community meetings regarding the plan for new attendance boundaries.
- Made a final decision on new elementary attendance boundaries.
- Work with kindergarten teachers to develop a plan for implementing full-day kindergarten.
- Begin Gemini construction (summer 2018).
- Gather feedback from preschool staff regarding design of the new preschool.
- Work with architects to develop plans for the new preschool.
- Work with District staff on the process for transferring 6th grade staff to Gemini.
- Begin First Steps Preschool construction (possibly spring 2019).
- Move 6th grade into the new addition at Gemini; change the name to Gemini Middle School (possibly fall 2019).
- Launch full-day kindergarten (possibly fall 2019).
- Implement new attendance boundaries (fall 2019).
- Open new First Steps Preschool facility (possibly fall 2020).