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Antrim officials seek to get out the vote on Great Brook

  • Antrim Select Board Chair Eric Tenney opens Monday night's Great Brook information session with an opening statement regarding Warrant Article 8.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Antrim Select Board Chair Eric Tenney opens Monday night's Great Brook information session with an opening statement regarding Warrant Article 8.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • School Board member Crista Salamy has a side conversation with Antrim Select Board member John Robertson at Monday night's Great Brook information session at the Town Hall.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    School Board member Crista Salamy has a side conversation with Antrim Select Board member John Robertson at Monday night's Great Brook information session at the Town Hall.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Select Board Chair Eric Tenney discusses the future of Great Brook School at Monday night's information session at Town Hall hosted by the Antrim Select Board.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Select Board Chair Eric Tenney discusses the future of Great Brook School at Monday night's information session at Town Hall hosted by the Antrim Select Board.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Great Brook School Principal Jim Elder answers a question from an audience member regarding Warrant Article 8 at Monday night's information session at the Antrim Town Hall.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    Great Brook School Principal Jim Elder answers a question from an audience member regarding Warrant Article 8 at Monday night's information session at the Antrim Town Hall.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • School Board member Crista Salamy answers a question from the audience as School Board member Mary Allen and Great Brook Principal Jim Elder look on at Monday night's Warrant Article 8 information session at Town Hall.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

    School Board member Crista Salamy answers a question from the audience as School Board member Mary Allen and Great Brook Principal Jim Elder look on at Monday night's Warrant Article 8 information session at Town Hall.
    (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Antrim Select Board Chair Eric Tenney opens Monday night's Great Brook information session with an opening statement regarding Warrant Article 8.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • School Board member Crista Salamy has a side conversation with Antrim Select Board member John Robertson at Monday night's Great Brook information session at the Town Hall.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Select Board Chair Eric Tenney discusses the future of Great Brook School at Monday night's information session at Town Hall hosted by the Antrim Select Board.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • Great Brook School Principal Jim Elder answers a question from an audience member regarding Warrant Article 8 at Monday night's information session at the Antrim Town Hall.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)
  • School Board member Crista Salamy answers a question from the audience as School Board member Mary Allen and Great Brook Principal Jim Elder look on at Monday night's Warrant Article 8 information session at Town Hall.<br/>(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

ANTRIM — Approximately 50 people attended Monday night’s Great Brook School informational session held at the Town Hall to get a better understanding of ConVal School District Warrant Article 8, which would close Great Brook if it passes in a ballot vote Tuesday.

A panel — consisting of the Antrim Select Board , two School Board members and GBS Principal Jim Elder — answered questions and provided information. All expressed support for keeping the school open.

The main message of the meeting was delivered by Select Board Chair Eric Tenney at the start. He said that if the town can get roughly 800 to 1,000 people out in Antrim to vote ‘No’ on Warrant Article 8, then there’s a good chance it can be defeated. Tenney said last year that there were about 600 residents at Antrim’s Town Meeting, and he’s hoping word will get around about wanting more people to attend this year.

School Board member Mary Allen said that if 66 percent of the district votes ‘Yes’ to close Great Brook, then it’s over. Great Brook would close down, and no overriding decision from the School Board could change that.

A majority of the initial discussions from the audience centered around savings the district would accrue if Great Brook were to close. Tenney said the reality of the situation is that closing Great Brook would not save that much money — anywhere from $1.1 to $1.7 million on a one-time savings. Mark Fernald and Gail Cromwell, who brought the petition forward, have said the closure would save the district $1.7 million a year. The $1.7 million is what the ConVal Model Study Committee has said is the staff savings, minus paraprofessionals, of closing Great Brook.

Members of the audience were concerned that the individual towns wouldn’t see any of the savings.

“The money saved wouldn’t go back to the towns, it would stay in the school district,” Antrim resident Andrew Robblee said at the meeting Monday. “Which would mean something nice for Peterborough.”

Elder said that if Great Brook closes and South Meadow School absorbs some, if not all of the Great Brook population, some structural adjustments may have to be made to accommodate those extra students. And that could mean dipping into those newly acquired savings.

School Board member Crista Salamy told the audience that the middle schools in the district were built for an approximate population of 450 students, with an ideal range of 300 to 500. If, for example, the sixth grade through eighth grade at Great Brook was absorbed by South Meadow, Salamy said the population would be about 650 to 675 students.

The conversation quickly switched over to the students that would be affected, and attendees wondered if their education would suffer after a move.

“There’s no list of educational advantages that have been presented for kids to go and blend into SMS,” Robblee said.

“It’s not going to help kids in any way,” Elder said. “Class sizes at Great Brook are 15 to 22 students right now per teacher.”

Salamy said that the range of students per teacher would increase to 22.5 to 29 students per teacher after combining schools.

Elder said that this year NECAP, or New England Common Assessment Program, test scores are up at Great Brook 13 points in both math and reading. He said that Great Brook scores are generally behind those of South Meadow students’ scores, but this year they are about even.

Antrim resident and Great Brook Administrative Assistant Kathi Wasserloos said overall the staff at Great Brook is proud of what they have been able to create through the years.

“I’m proud of the sense of community we have established,” Wasserloos said. “I’m proud to know the kids by name.”

Before the session concluded, Antrim Police Chief Scott Lester spoke up to dispel any rumors circulating around town that if Great Brook were to close the vacant building could be used as a new police station. He said that since the district owns the Great Brook building, not the town of Antrim, there is no way the police station could move in.

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