Time to Close Orleans Elementary School?

It would be cheaper to send Orleans kids to Cape Cod Academy

Brewster lost more students than Orleans currently enrolls

It’s time for the Orleans school committee to make a decision:  either open to school choice or close Orleans Elementary School.

Suffering from the same declining enrollment as all other Cape school districts, Orleans Elementary School (OES) has seen its enrollment drop from 255 students in 2001 to 197 in 2011 a loss of 22.75%.  As we predicted on October 26, 2011, Orleans taxpayers got a surprise when the state reported OES having a per pupil cost of $23,905. 

Even with the discrepancy of $638,054 ($3,375/student) alleged by school and town officials, Orleans would still have a per pupil cost of $20,530.

One can send a K-5 student to Cape Cod Academy for about $20,180 plus $2,100 for transportation.

We Told You So!

Why are Orleans’ numbers so egregiously high?  Because they haven’t reduced their staff to reflect the drop in enrollment.  Our October 26th story reported Orleans having a full time equivalent (FTE) of 25.9 teachers in 2004 but still employed an FTE of 25.1 in Fiscal 2011.

In comparison, Brewster suffered a decline of 28.8% (199 students) and dropped its Full Time Equivilent (FTE) from 59.6 teachers in 2004 to 39.1 in 2011.  Brewster lost more students than Orleans currently enrolls.

There are three ways that Orleans Elementary could survive without continuing to rape Orleans’ taxpayers:  open for school choice or close the school.

Best Option:  School Choice

Do you want empty desks to gather dust or do you want a $5,000 check on each one of those desks?” - Carolyn Cragin. As Monomoy superintendent Carolyn Cragin says so aptly, “Do you want empty desks to gather dust or do you want a $5,000 check on each one of those desks?” 

Orleans Elementary is a very good little school.  We’re sure that many parents from nearby towns (even some in the Nauset district) would love to send their kids to OES.  Yet the Orleans school committee stubbornly refuses to open for school choice even with their school’s very survival at stake.

We urge Orleans taxpayers to reach out to their school committee and make it clear they want the school opened for inbound choice students.  We know that superintendent Dr. Richard Hoffmann knows how to market school choice, as evidenced by the considerable success of Nauset Regional High School at attracting new students.  Tell the school committee to un-bind Hoffmann’s hands and let him do the “fishes and loaves” operation that he does so well.

Outbound School Choice Option - Vouchers could save $13,000 per stident

If Orleans Elementary’s population was reduced by another 50 students or so, the school could be reduced to one class at each grade level.  Something approaching 50% of the staff could be laid off. 

What if the Town of Orleans offered $5,000 per year vouchers to the first 50 parents who agreed to send their kids to Monomoy under school choice?  Orleans would then be  expending $10,000 to educate the outbound child - $5,000 in school choice funds and $5,000 in payment to the parent. 

Orleans would potentially save $10,000 to $13,000 on each one of those kids’ education over what they expend on them at Orleans Elementary.  (Credit-where-credit’s-due:  This idea was once proposed years ago by Spyro Mitrokostas when he was a member of the Brewster finance committee and that town was studying the need for construction of the Eddy School.)

Nuclear Option:  Close Orleans Elementary

No town wants to close its elementary school.  However, right now the two Brewster elementary schools could absorb Orleans’ students without a hiccup.  Some teachers might be laid off and some transferred to Brewster but we have a feeling Brewster could educate these kids at a lower cost than what it’s costing Orleans right now. 

We’re pretty sure the new Monomoy District's Dr. Cragin would welcome 189 new elementary students into her  region next year.  The problem is that once they get into Monomoy they might want to stay there – costing Nauset at least $5,000 per student for up to thirteen years, a total cost of $65,000 per student to the town the student left.

Get Mad as Hell

Taxpayers in Orleans have every right to be “mad as hell” about this outrageous cost to maintain a withering elementary school.  Call your elementary school committee members and select-board – tell them “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

The committee members are; Mary Lyttle, chair, Gwynne Guzzeau and David Abel.The Town office number is (508) 240-3700, and ask for Margie Fulcher, Selectmen's liaison to the Orleans Elementary School Committee.

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