Dublin residents in favor of keeping elementary schools

Isla Higley, Annika Jackson, Emma Garnham, Cora Higley and Mila Boutelle hold up signs in support of Dublin Consolidated School during a forum on Wednesday.

Isla Higley, Annika Jackson, Emma Garnham, Cora Higley and Mila Boutelle hold up signs in support of Dublin Consolidated School during a forum on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Dublin residents weigh in on reconfiguration concepts during a forum at Dublin Consolidated School on Wednesday.

Dublin residents weigh in on reconfiguration concepts during a forum at Dublin Consolidated School on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Dublin middle and elementary schoolers Emma Garnham, Mila Boutelle, Isla Higley, Annika Jackson, Cora Higley and Lily Marcum advocate for keeping Dublin Consolidated School open during a reconfiguration forum on Wednesday.

Dublin middle and elementary schoolers Emma Garnham, Mila Boutelle, Isla Higley, Annika Jackson, Cora Higley and Lily Marcum advocate for keeping Dublin Consolidated School open during a reconfiguration forum on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 10-05-2023 2:46 PM

More than 60 residents turned out to Dublin Consolidated School during a forum on possible school reconfiguration on Wednesday, speaking out in support of maintaining the district’s elementary schools.

Former Dublin Consolidated School student Isla Higley, 10, wrote an essay which she read to the crowd, titled “Why I Want DCS to Stay Open.”

“I remember when I was staring kindergarten, I was scared. It was hard to go from playing all day to working during parts of the day. All of the teachers welcomed me in with a warm smile on their faces. By the end of the week, DCS felt like home,” Higley said. “I would wake up and be excited to go to school. The education I got was amazing.”

Higley spoke about the benefits of a small classroom, saying she was able to work directly with her teachers when she didn’t understand something, and that events like the harvest supper, ice cream social, movie nights and community auctions helped connect her to the community.

“I want my little sister and so many other kids to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a truly amazing school. I may be in middle school, but DCS will always be my home,” Higley said.

Kimberly Marcum of Dublin, who has three children in the district, said she was absolutely against closing elementary schools, saying they are a “vital part of the community.” Marcum said she wouldn’t be opposed to moving some middle-school grades back to the elementary schools, if it meant keeping the elementary schools.

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“Small schools offer a unique situation for our kids and families,” Marcum said. “Parents are able to know their kids’ teachers. I believe schools in small towns are part of what makes moving to a small town attractive, and it’s vital to keeping them vibrant. We would not have chosen to live in Dublin if it didn’t have an elementary school.”

As of Sept. 1, Dublin Consolidated School had 55 students, more than only the 37 at Temple Elementary School and 43 at Francestown Elementary School among the district’s eight elementary schools.

Resident Sarah Cahn said the elementary school was important to her family’s decision to settle in Dublin. Her husband is from the state, and the couple moved back to New Hampshire from Los Angeles, in part because they were seeking a small-town atmosphere.

“Schools were a big part of the reason we moved here,” Cahn said, noting that class size was one of her main concerns with consolidating schools. “It’s pretty important to us.”

May Clark, who was the teaching principal at Dublin Consolidated for 11 years, until 2015, and a former 10-year member of the School Board, said the issue of consolidation has arisen many times before, and never seems to lead anywhere.

“Nothing changes, and the process is so disruptive and disheartening to parents, students and staff,” Clark said.

Clark said there were ways to be creative about using the district’s empty space without closing schools, including leasing space for business incubators or for elder day care.

“There’s opportunities I don’t think people are thinking about,” Clark said. “Ways to make the schools more efficient and effective, while keeping their small family nature.”

Some residents who attended said they would favor consolidating or closing the middle schools before looking at elementary schools. Dublin Selectwoman Carole Monroe said Great Brook School in Antrim and South Meadow School in Peterborough, the district’s middle schools, should combine before the district looks to elementary schools.

“Do that first, and then worry about the elementary schools. And if Peterborough and Antrim aren’t willing to to do that, why ask us to do the same?” Monroe said.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.