Meeting School sale is pending; buyers not ID’d

RINDGE — A longstanding history of community supported agriculture and nontraditional educational opportunities may continue at the former Meeting School if a sales agreement is reached between the school’s Board of Trustees and a group of prospective buyers.

The Board of Trustees has agreed to sell the property and is in the process of drafting a purchase and sale’s agreement, according to Jeremiah Dickinson, clerk of the Meeting School’s Board of Trustees. The board, however, is keeping the prospective buyers’ identity a secret until the sale is final.

The time frame for when an agreement could be reached is also uncertain. The Board of Trustees is working with the state’s Charitable Trusts Unit, which is charged with making sure the school, a nonprofit, is sold at a fair market value and its charitable assets maximized, according to Anthony Blenkinsop, director of the state agency.

While the prospective buyers group is not proposing to reopen the Meeting School as a high school, Dickinson said the people would care for the land and continue to provide educational experiences that foster a close-knit Quaker community. “It is a blessing to have a group of people so like-minded with the guiding philosophy and spirit of the Meeting School,” he said.

The Meeting School, a coed Quaker boarding and day school founded more than 50 years ago in Rindge, shut its doors in early 2012, citing financial constraints and low enrollment. At its peak, Dickinson, a graduate of the class of 1965, said the school served more than 40 students, but in its last year only 14 students were enrolled.

Although the board attempted to form partnerships and consolidate its resources with other East Coast Quaker schools in order to keep the Rindge Meeting School afloat, none of the more than 20 schools contacted was in a position to lead those efforts, Dickinson said.

“We got some interest, but no one had the time or financial resources,” he said.

Founded in 1957 on 120 Thomas Road, the Meeting School provided a Quaker-based education for ninth through 12-graders on a working organic farm. But in school year 2011-12, Dickinson said the Board of Trustees realized that low enrollment and an inability to partner with other Quaker institutions would inhibit the Meeting School from continuing with the same educational model it had for decades.

The board proposed at that time making the transition to a full semester school, which would exclusively serve students in their junior year, but economic circumstances were difficult and the transition never got off the ground, Dickinson said. That’s when the Board of Trustees reluctantly made the decision to sell the property, he said.

“It’s sad that the school had to close, but I’m definitely heartened that this group has stepped forward,” he said, referring to the potential buyers.

Sustainable stewardship of the land and community engagement have been longstanding practices at the school, Dickinson said, adding that he hopes they will be a part of the property’s future, too. The Meeting School was built on two converted farmsteads, totaling more than 100 acres, and has produced meat, eggs and some vegetables in recent summers through an ongoing Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program.

“The Community Supported Agriculture was quite successful last summer and very well-received,” Dickinson said. “My expectation is that [the CSA] will happen again this year.”

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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