Committee more likely to focus on efficiency

Group of School Board, Select Board members say consolidation study still part of plans; meetings to be held in district towns

PETERBOROUGH — Members of ConVal’s District Study Committee plan to hold meetings in each of the district’s towns in order to listen to concerns residents have about the school district.

The group, made up of both ConVal School Board members and representatives of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee, was formed in May to address issues related to declining enrollment. During their initial meetings, the group identified three issues that they might study — exploring consolidation of schools, looking at opportunities for greater efficiencies, and finding ways to increase enrollment by encouraging more families with children to move to the district.

At a Study Committee meeting on Thursday, School Board member Fiona Tibbetts of Dublin said she has held listening meetings in Dublin, including at a well-attended Select Board meeting.

“The feedback I heard was ‘Efficiencies, efficiencies, efficiencies,’” Tibbetts said. “People said consolidation has already been addressed.”

At this year’s District Meeting, two proposals for consolidation were rejected by voters. A petition article that would have closed Great Brook School in Antrim and put all middle school students together in Peterborough drew just 37 percent of the vote. A plan recommended by the School Board for a 10-step process to close a school with insufficient enrollment was favored by a majority of voters, but fell below the 2/3 margin required to change the district’s Articles of Agreement.

Study Committee member Rich Cahoon said he had met with residents at the Antrim Grange to listen to their feedback on the three issues.

“There was an immediate groan when school consolidation was mentioned,” Cahoon said.

Both Cahoon and Tibbetts said the feedback they were getting indicates that the study committee should focus on efficiencies.

The group has made no decisions on its focus, but they plan to hold more listening sessions with residents. Each of the members will be arranging meetings in the towns they represent.

Scott Carbee of Francestown was the only Select Board representative on the study committee to attend Thursday’s meeting. Select Board representatives are Carbee, Carl Newton of Sharon, Deb Davidson of Greenfield and Mike Darnell of Temple.

School Board members on the committee are Tibbetts, Cahoon, Pierce Rigrod of Hancock and Erik Thibault of Peterborough.

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