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Orange school budget increase proposed for unfunded mandate

ORANGE — Mahar Regional School Committee is considering hiring a new teacher to handle an unfunded state mandate signed into law last year.

Chapter 222, an Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School, says there is a requirement for local school districts to provide access to education alternatives for students expelled or suspended longer than 10 consecutive school days. According to Principal Ishmael Tabales of Ralph C. Mahar Regional, the school already has a Re-engagement Center for just that purpose. The only change needed at this point for Mahar to comply with the mandate is the hiring of a certified teacher to run the program.

New Superintendent of Schools Tari N. Thomas explained that there will still be out-of-school suspensions in cases of serious infractions such as dangerous weapons, but with minor incidents they are looking to develop structures to keep students learning. The proposed budget increase includes the $40,507 to be used for the new teacher.

At a recent meeting, some committee members asked whether the new teacher would have students at all times. Tabales explained that the infractions have occurred at the school for a while and the number of incidents has gone down over the years, but believes that the center is used quite frequently. He also informed the committee that there would be an added guidance component to the program and that the new instructor would also be available to take care of other tasks in addition to the position’s primary goals.

The law takes effect on July 1 of this year. The cost increase is a part of the overall budget increase that will be presented at a public hearing on April 1 at Mahar at 7 p.m. Afterward, the committee will vote on the budget that will be submitted to town meeting in the spring.

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