Calais, News, Schools

All Sides of School Closure Shared at Forum

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CALAIS – Washington Central Supervisory Union schools held concurrent forums June 26 to hear the public weigh in on possible closure or reconfiguration of the district’s smaller elementary schools in Calais and Worcester.

Eighteen people turned out for the Calais forum, where current parents with school-age children were universally in support of the closure, under the assumption that opportunities will be expanded in a larger and better resourced school, suggested notes taken by school board member, Daniel Keeney. He added, those parents emphasized they have struggled to overcome under resourcing caused by inadequate class size, “as compared to the demographic speculation of what might happen 10-plus years down the line.”

People at the forum expressed “a lot of skepticism” around what people felt was inadequate detail in the study offered by the district, reported Keeney. “People are skeptical that mergers save money. People believe enrollment will eventually come back up and we won’t have the capacity to support it anymore. People ask why do we think all of our class size problems will be solved with this? One asked why we were talking about arts-music-language as ‘enrichment’ when it’s really a core of the curriculum?”

Keeney’s notes recorded a lot of detail he will share with the school board to be factored into future consideration.

Quite a few suggestions came out of the meeting that included possibly considering how each of the smaller schools might remain open by consolidating pre-K and lower elementary grades at one and upper grades through fifth or sixth at the other. Extending that idea even further and considering expansion of the U-32 campus to accommodate elementary grades was mentioned.

Enhanced school choice and the possibility of attending Montpelier schools was mentioned, as was more research into what cost savings might be expected well into the future.

Forum attendees expressed concerns and voiced questions about aspects of the process from whether assumed demographic trends can be depended upon given other uncertainties, with climate change, for example, to where savings will come from, how long school bus rides might be, and why a full cost accounting of the options hasn’t been done, Keeney’s notes indicate.

There was some excitement about how reuse of the school might even benefit Calais if it were repurposed as a space for various services, programs or even businesses, reported Keeney.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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